Shaler Area hosting band festival featuring musicians from 9 districts -

Shaler Area hosting band festival featuring musicians from 9 districts

Saturday, December 28, 2019 | 12:01 AM

Approximately 230 students from nine area school districts will perform in the Allegheny Valley Honors Band Festival Jan. 9 and 10 at Shaler Area High School.

More than 500 seventh- through 12th-graders auditioned for the band, with 31 Shaler Area students securing spots in the ensembles. After spending two days rehearsing with guest conductors, the students will showcase their talents during a concert at 7 p.m. Jan. 10 at the Shaler Area High School Auditorium. Tickets will be on sale at the door for $5 for adults and $3 for children and senior citizens.

Dr. Stephen Gage, Youngstown State University conducting professor and bands and orchestra director, will conduct the senior high honors band, composed of grades 10 through 12.

“As soon as I knew that I was hosting this year, he was one of the first people that I thought of because he is just very, very good with the students and he’s super-positive and he’s just super-knowledgeable,” George Tepshich, high school bands director and festival coordinator, said.

On a couple of occasions, Gage has served as an adjudicator for Shaler Area’s wind ensemble and jazz band, watching and judging the groups’ performances.

Tepshich asked educator and composer Chad Heiny to conduct the junior high honors band, based upon a colleague’s recommendation.

“He seems like a really nice fit for the junior high band,” Tepshich said.

Students received the music around Labor Day, he said, and auditioned Dec. 3 at Northgate High School.

Participating districts include: Shaler Area, Pine-Richland, North Allegheny, Fox Chapel, Hampton, North Hills, Northgate, Avonworth and Riverview.

“I love seeing all of the students from all of the different school districts come together for one event and put something together. Most of these students have not met each other and they’ll be together for two days to put on this wonderful performance, so I do enjoy these honor bands,” Tepshich said.

Last year’s festival occurred at North Allegheny School District. The districts with the largest facilities rotate hosting duties, according to him.

“When we do, it’s up to us to do everything,” he said. “So, I selected, took care of all of the facilities, and I’m setting up the banquet and food and everything for the two days, organized the conductors, set up the music, ordered all the music and the folders. It’s like months of preparation.”

Middle school music teacher Ellen Spondike will assist during the event, which she described as “always a great experience for our students.”

Tepshich thinks the festival will provide an excellent showcase for the improvements the district has made over the last couple of years to its performing arts program, which includes band, choir, orchestra, plays and musicals, with student participation starting as early as fourth grade.

Tepshich provided a letter with encouraging words to students selected to the Allegheny Valley Honors Band.

“I just tell them to bring their best version of themselves and work hard and try to enjoy it. It’s a great experience.”