VHS wind ensemble wows crowd at TMEA

By KRISTEN HILL, Contributor , MEGAN MESSER, Vandegrift Voice

Before a standing-room-only audience of over 2,500 music educators, the Vandegrift wind ensemble performed their TMEA 6A Honor Band concert on Feb. 15 at the Lila Cockrell Theatre in San Antonio as part of the Texas Music Educators Association annual convention.

The highlight of the Honor Band program was “Symphony No. 4” by David Maslanka, a 27 minute piece that the students worked on for months in preparation.  This preparation included a special clinic with University of Texas Professor and Conductor Jerry Junkin. This is a collegiate level work of music that is difficult for most high school bands to master.

“My students were in tears at the end of the Maslanka Symphony… such an emotional ride for them,” said Mike Howard, VHS director of bands. “The pride and genuine joy that they had on their faces at the end of the concert was one of the most gratifying music education moments I’ve experienced.”

“The concert went beyond any of our expectations,” senior Pranav Batra said.  “Seats were filled to the point where people sat on the ground and in the hallways outside the concert hall just to listen. It reminded me why I love music so much.”

When last year’s wind ensemble was titled 6A Honor Band Champions, they were given the opportunity to perform at TMEA.  

“The theater was packed with people and everyone wanted to hear us because of how good of a band performance we have,” senior Justin Jalomo said. “Honestly, it was pretty overwhelming.”

A special twist of the performance was when Howard welcomed both his father, Robert, and brother, Chris, onto the stage as guest conductor and guest artist, respectively.  

The elder Howard conducted “Joyce’s 71st N.Y. Regiment March” by Boyer-Lake. Sibling Howard, who serves as a clarinetist with the United States Coast Guard Band, performed a clarinet solo for “Concert for Clarinet and Wind Ensemble – III. Riffs for Lenny” by Frank Ticheli.  

The concert also featured Le Lac des Cygnes Suite – No. 1 Scene (Swan Lake), which holds a special place for the students and staff at Vandegrift HS. Swan Lake was part of the 2013 Field Production, “Midnight’s Beauty,” which won the UIL State Marching Championship.

Vandegrift’s award-winning percussion section was featured in “to wALk Or ruN in wEst harlem” by Andy Akiho. This original piece is highlighted by prepared Vibraphone, prepared piano, and multiple implement choices that give the piece a unique soundscape.   

Howard with the help of assistant directors Katie VanDoren and Dustin Tharp and percussion director Joe Hobbs prepared for this concert for many months, starting back in October when marching season was in full swing.  

“This was the culmination of months of work and I knew it was going to be a memorable performance,” Batra said. “An hour-long concert is no walk in the park, it’s the kind of thing that’s just waiting for a mistake. But once I saw the energetic crowd, I knew this performance would be good and my nerves quickly subsided.”

Concluding with “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” by John Philip Sousa, the band featured piccolo soloists who stood front and center stage as they played this familiar and beloved tune while leading the band.  

The Wind Ensemble dedicated the preparation and performance of this march to its namesake, Lt. Matthew Ryan Vandegrift.  The concert was met with multiple standing ovations from the crowd.

“We left it out on stage for the crowd,” Jalomo said. “We just wanted to give the audience a performance that they would always remember.”