SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – “Yeah – there we go, clarinets!” called conductor James Robins as he stabbed the air with his baton. Turning quickly to the saxophone section, he yelled, “Altos – killin’ it at measure 63!”
Members of the District 6 CRV middle school band responded with enthusiasm, despite the early Saturday morning hour. Rehearsal for the festival concert to be held that night was in full swing.
The auditorium and music rooms at Springfield High School were buzzing with the music of bands and choirs as dozens of middle and high school students from schools up and down the Connecticut River Valley participated in the annual District 6 Winter Concert on Feb. 3.
Each student had already undergone months of preparation, including presenting repertoire at an audition in the fall. The festival itself was a whirlwind of rehearsals and meetings over a precious few hours on Friday and Saturday, blending the student participants in ensembles for the first time and resulting in a concert on Saturday afternoon.
Guest conductor James Robins led the largest ensemble – the middle school concert band, comprised of 50 student musicians from nine area schools. Robins, who is director of bands at Hampstead Middle School in Hampstead, N.H., also teaches guitar and serves as an adjudicator and trombone clinician.
Kayla Werlin of Lexington, Mass., conducted the 40-member high school chorus. She chairs the music department and teaches vocal music at Longmeadow High School, where her choirs have earned awards for festival performances as well as the American Prize for Choral Performance.
The high school jazz band was led by Earl MacDonald, professor of music and director of Jazz Studies at the University of Connecticut. Mac Donald, an active clinician, guest conductor, and teacher at summer camps, has won numerous awards for teaching and for jazz arrangements. His 18-member ensemble, though the smallest in number at the festival, packed a big musical punch with their four concert selections, including “Cirrus,” one of MacDonald’s own compositions.
Audience members at the afternoon concert were excited to hear the results of the students’ hard work. Penny and Brian Stammers, carrying a tribute bouquet for their granddaughter, flutist Skylar Thibodeau of Weathersfield, summed up the general feeling: “We’re so proud!”
Participating schools included Bellows Falls Middle School, Bellows Falls Union High School, Black River High School, Brattleboro Area Middle School, Brattleboro Union High School, Green Mountain Union High School, Hartford Memorial Middle School, Hartford High School, Leland & Gray Union High School, Mid-Vermont Christian Academy, Riverside Middle School, Springfield High School, Twin Valley Middle and High School, Vermont Academy, and Weathersfield School.