9 Wind Ensemble students shine in rebirth of Northeast Instrument Music Festival

group of students sitting and standing, dressed to perform their concert

By James Iacketta

Two weeks ago, nine of Stillwater’s finest musicians spent an intense three-and-a-half-day residency with the All-Star Concert Band at the Courtyard by Marriott in Lake George, N.Y. This was part of the rebirth of the Northeast Instrumental Music Festival (NEIMF), a music festival that had been held dormant over the course of the pandemic.

Eleventh grade Flutist Alexis Baines, 9th grade Tenor Saxophonist Jayce Eden, 9th grade Trombonist Broghan Feguer, 11th grade Trumpeter Dylan Izzo, 12th grade Clarinetist Connor Julian, 11th grade Clarinetist Morgan Kay, 10th grade Alto Saxophonist Sydney Martin, 10th grade Trumpeter Colden McDonagh, and 11th grade Percussionist Joey Spanswick all represented Stillwater High School admirably and were excellent musical ambassadors for their school district.

The NEIMF is an annual band festival dating back to the mid-1980s. This festival brings together musicians of all ages, including adults and students, and promotes the goal of performing music as a lifelong learning endeavor.

Our nine musicians were selected based on teacher recommendation as well as their performance achievement level either at NYSSMA solo competitions or in their school music programs. Once they were accepted into the festival, they received excerpts of music that were used to audition for their specific seating placements in the 72-piece ensemble.

Thursday, Nov.  17, was a busy day for these nine musicians as they traveled to Lake George, checked into their rooms, and spent a few minutes perfecting their audition excerpts. After auditions and a dinner break, they joined students from 10 other schools around the Northeast to sight read and begin working on their concert program.

Students playing in trumpet sectional

Friday was a full day of rehearsals both as a full ensemble and in sectionals [trumpet sectional pictured above], where they work with a specialist on their parts. The students spent at least eight hours in some form of rehearsal situation and handled it with ease. Bravo!

Saturday was another full rehearsal day, with two very long rehearsals designed to polish each of the five pieces they were preparing for their concert. That afternoon, the students had the opportunity to listen to the Great American Community Band rehearsal and ask questions of the adults and conductor. This is where the true essence of the mission of music education was demonstrated, as the students witnessed that only a small percentage of the adult band was made up of music professionals – everyone else were lawyers, doctors, businessmen and women, as well as stay-at-home moms and dads.

And several of these adults were retired and in their 70s and 80s. The message communicated to the students was that EVERYONE can make music throughout their entire life, and that graduation from high school does not mark an end to their musical education – it is only the beginning!

After the adult band rehearsal, students had the opportunity to socialize and mingle while they enjoyed a pizza party to celebrate their musical achievements. They also had the opportunity to take in some of Lake George’s recreational activities, as the entire group went bowling!

large group of seated student musicians in the 2022 NEIMF All-Star High School Concert Band

Sunday morning, the students gathered together one more time for their dress rehearsal and the day culminated in a successful concert featuring the All-Star High School Band [pictured above], as well as the Great American Community Band. The 72 members of the All Star High School Band performed the following pieces:

  • “Commence” by Sean O’Loughlin was an exciting opener and featured many difficult time signatures.
  • Following this was the piece, “Lady Gaga Fugue,” which showcased Lady Gaga’s biggest hits but in a classical music setting.
  • Next came a traditional march by Henry Fillmore titled “America Exultant,” which got our percussionists playing their best.
  • Fourth on the program was “Fantasy on Yankee Doodle” by Mark Williams, which presented the familiar piece in many different ways and variations and was very well played by the ensemble.
  • The concert ended with “The Rolling Stones on Tour,” which had everyone grooving and provided a rockin’ end to a successful weekend!

A big shout out goes to Mrs. Debbie Baines for her amazing chaperoning skills throughout the weekend, as well as to all the parents of the students who allowed their children to be a part of this festival’s rebirth! It is greatly appreciated! Thank you!

If you would like to know more about the Northeast Instrumental Music Festival and all the opportunities the Stillwater Music Department provides to the students of our district, please contact any of the teachers below. Happy holidays!

Mr. Iacketta: jiacketta@scsd.org
Mrs. Pitkin: kpitkin@scsd.org
Mr. Foxton: pfoxton@scsd.org
Miss O’Neill: roneill@scsd.org

group of students seated and standing in hotel lobby, giving the peace sign
Chillin’ after the pizza party

students standing in a group in Lake George Village
Stillwater’s NEIMF students in Lake George Village