Wind ensemble performance first in central Illinois

Adam Larck
The Metamora wind ensemble will be the first group from central Illinois to play in the Music for All National Festival at Butler University from Thursday to Saturday.

On Thursday, the 42 members of the Metamora wind ensemble will be performing a first for central Illinois ensembles.

They will be the first group to ever play at the Music for All National Festival at Butler University in Indianapolis.

“We’re the only band in central Illinois that’s ever been to this festival,” band director Dr. Wally Parks said.

The only other schools in the area to play at the festival have been Macomb and United Township.

The ensemble, an audition-only group, was started by Parks and Christopher Render 10 years ago.

“It’s a smaller group. The wind ensemble is actually an ensemble of soloists, so there’s only one player per part,” he said.

Prospective members try out in March the year before for the upcoming year.

This is the first year that Metamora has tried out for the festival, and was also accepted on its first try.

 “This year, there are 14 bands that were invited all across the United States,” Parks said. “We’re one of three Illinois bands.”

The festival, which started in the early ’90s, requires a recording by the band, as well as two references from other musical educators.

“They have a panel that listens to the recordings blind so they don’t know who the bands are. They evaluate them and the bands are selected from there. We knew about mid-July that we were selected,” he said. “This has really been a seven month project, because once we got selected, since it’s a longer program, we’ve been working hard these past seven months. (Thursday) is culminating in one night.”

After being accepted into the festival, the band started seeking sponsorships to help pay for the trip and hotel stay.

Overall, the ensemble got money from over 18 groups and people to help them make the trip to Indianapolis.

While the festival lasts from Thursday to Saturday, the ensemble will be the opening performance at Clowes Hall at 5 p.m. Thursday.

The performance, which will last about 50 minutes, will be immediately followed by a clinic for the students.

“They have a panel of nationally known music educators and band directors throughout the United States,” Parks said. “We’re not sure who’s going to be working with our band, but we have evaluators that actually will make comments about the band performance. One of them will take the band afterwards and we’ll have a clinic where they’ll talk to the band. At that point in time they’ll talk to the band about some very broad musical things at that point.

“You’re getting a clinic from some of the best people in the country.”

The students will also have master classes on Friday, where students split into groups based on their instrument to get tips from professionals.

After the master classes, Metamora will listen to the other schools there on Friday and Saturday, as well as the Jazz Honor Band and the Honor Band of America, which consist of individual students from across the nation.

Parks said this is a great honor for the ensemble.

“This is a major feather in our cap, not only for us, but for the school and for the community,” he said. “As we approach this as musicians, we approach this on a music level, but also that we’re representing the community of Metamora and Woodford County.”

However, this will not be the only big festival the students have been at this year.

The ensemble has also had two other festivals of note this year.

“The first one we played was called the Illinois Music Educations Association State Conference,” Parks said. “We did a clinic with a Brazilian percussionist. It’s about the sixth time we’ve been there. It’s an honor to play there. Then we just got back about two weeks ago from the Western Illinois University Showcase of Bands. They select three bands and we were part of that as well.”