PMEA District IV Band Festival to bring unique music to MCHS

LEWISTOWN – Young musicians from seven counties have less than a week left to rehearse as Mifflin County High School prepares to host the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association District 4 Band Festival for the first time in its history.

“It’s not often that a concert of a high school group like this happens in any community,” said MCHS Director of Bands Arthur Belfiore.

Belfiore said he has hosted the festival twice before – in 1994 and 2000 – at Lewistown Area High School. He also hosted the PMEA District IV Jazz Festival in 2007 at LAHS. However, this will be the first time the sounds of a district band will swell within MCHS.

The festival will be held from Feb. 5 to 8 at the school, and Dr. Jack Stamp, of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, will be the guest conductor. Belfiore said he met Stamp through clinics and workshops Stamp hosted in the 90s and early 2000s.

“Stamp is a quite famous composer,” Belfiore said, adding, “I have asked him to have the band perform one of his pieces.”

The musical composition, Junket, was written for the East Stroudsburg High School Band, Befiore said. To his knowledge, this will be only the second performance of the unpublished manuscript.

“It’s a unique opportunity for these students to, first off, work with the composer who wrote the piece of music, and to work on a piece of music that’s still not published,” Belfiore said.

He said the piece takes on a light mood beginning slowly, like walking into a field to picnic. The rest is “very fast, very energetic,” he said.

“It’s just a really unique opportunity to work with a live composer,” he said, explaining that the composers of bands’ standard repertoire of music have long since passed away.

This year, 174 high school musicians from 25 high schools across central Pennsylvania will perform. The band will include 20 students from MCHS.

Belfiore said the festival starts on Wednesday, when students will audition for placement within the concert band. Each student will audition before two directors neither of the directors from their own school. The top 40 percent of each section will advance to regional band.

Rehearsal will follow auditions, as students prepare to play five selections for a public audience during a final performance on Saturday.

“I know the band is going to be spectacular,” Belfore assured. “It would be worth the time to come to hear them play good band music and hear (Stamp’s) piece.”

The 2014 PMEA District 4 Band Festival concert is set to be held at 11 a.m. Feb. 8 at Mifflin County High School. Tickets cost $5 for adults and $3 for students.