Sunday, May 26, 2024

They got the beat

SHS percussion ensemble to perform at Music for All National Festival


SPRINGTOWN — Even though it’s still marching band season, Springtown High School percussionists have their eyes on March when they get to perform at the Music for All National Festival.

“I’m looking forward to sharing the thing that I love to do the most with everybody and just show, ‘Hey, this is what I worked for,’” said Doc Miller, who is a senior and plays the quads.

On March 21-23, 18 high school percussion students will attend the festival in Indianapolis.

“I think it's just going to be a really fun experience,” said Nick McCabe, who is a junior and plays the snare drum. “This is pretty big, and there's not a whole lot of people also going, so we were one of the few that were actually picked, and I think that's really awesome.”

This is the first time the high school percussion ensemble has applied for the Music for All National Festival. SHS Percussion Director Rachel Garza recalled one of her teacher colleagues saying the festival was the best experience for his students. The percussion ensemble usually participates in two festivals every spring in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and percussion students throughout the school district have a yearly concert in Springtown. 

Garza described this year's percussion ensemble as a strong group that motivated her to apply for different festivals, and she is excited for her students to gain new experiences.

“I hope to just broaden their musical horizons a little bit, be introduced to other ensembles from across the country, not just our small region,” she said. “For a lot of them, it's their first time traveling out of state. (For) a lot of them, it's going to be their very first time on an airplane, so just kind of letting them experience that. Even if they're not going to continue in music, just going to the festival and networking with other people from around the country is going to be a super cool experience for, I hope, a lot of them.”

Another student who will attend the festival is freshman Ally Kitchen who plays the marimba.

“I'm excited to experience something like that, going out and getting to compete,” Kitchen said. “I've never done anything like that before.”

To be invited, Garza had to submit an extensive application in April that included recordings of the percussion ensemble’s previous performances and references from people who have witnessed the performances. In addition to getting invited to the festival, Garza received feedback from professionals on the ensemble’s performances.

“They were just really pleased with the maturity of the group and the level of literature they're able to perform,” she said. “The pieces we submitted, one of them was definitely like a collegiate staple, so a lot of colleges play that piece. It's good to hear that type of feedback.”

At the festival, the ensemble will perform and hear other performances as well as attend social events to meet other students. The Music for All National Festival isn’t just for percussionists, Garza said. Other musical groups like orchestras, concert bands and choirs are also expected to attend.

“I'm actually really excited to meet other people who are as dedicated and who care as much as I do,” Miller said. “I really like meeting people who love music just like I do and share the same passion for it.”

In all, the festival is expected to include about 60 ensembles, and about 15 of those are percussion groups. On top of that, Garza described the other groups from Texas that are going to the festival as being from bigger and wealthier schools than SHS.

“I'm very excited that (we), a 4A school, got invited to kind of play with the big boys,” she said.

Miller and McCabe credited the percussion ensemble’s success in getting invited to the festival to their fellow musicians and Garza, who Miller called “a really good teacher.” McCabe said the passion for music from ensemble leaders and Garza spreads to everyone else in the group.

“It makes everyone so much more happy and energetic and joyful about this activity that we participate in,” McCabe said.

Kitchen pointed out that success also comes from dedication and daily practice.

“It's a lot, but it's worth it,” she said.

SHS’s percussion ensemble will be learning and perfecting new music leading up to the festival, Garza said, including one piece that was written specifically for the group. They plan to host a send-off concert ahead of the festival on March 19. The ensemble is expected to close its performance at the festival with a pop song, as is tradition.

“I think that's important because that's what we do here in Springtown,” Garza said. “I wanted to take that to the national stage.”

All students attending the festival are responsible for paying for their own plane tickets. The group is also in the process of fundraising about $17,000 to pay for expenses through raffles and business sponsorships, Garza said.

People can find out more about the fundraising opportunities via Facebook at the Sound of Springtown page or the Springtown Band Backers page. Donations can be given at online.

Those who can’t donate financially can support the percussion ensemble and the band by showing up to the performances, Garza said.

“That means a lot to the kids, maybe more than they realize, having an audience for them,” she said.