Petersburg garners superior ratings at Music Fest
Last week the Petersburg music program travelled to Sitka to perform in the annual Southeast Music Fest.
“This was one of the best festivals in my 14 years of experience,” said Petersburg’s director Matt Lenhard. “All the groups were very prepared and it translated to a confident performance, with a very good program. The judges and the audience gave us great feedback and superior ratings.”
Music Fest is a noncompetitive event. A panel of judges, including some from outside the region, objectively listens and using their own set of criteria, as well as criteria set out by the participating directors, gives a rating or commentary on ways to improve. The best rating possible is “superior,” it denotes that the performance stood out as “doing everything right.”
The concert band played three pieces chosen by Lenhard.
“I like to set somewhat of a scene. I like to have some imagery for the audience, something to grab them,” he said.
The first piece performed was Moscow 1941 by Brian Balmages. The piece tells the story of the Soviet Union’s resistance of the Nazi invasion. The audience knows it’s a story and listens for the action throughout the performance.
The Concert Band followed with a Bulgarian dance piece called Bucimis. This composition is set in a compound meter of 15, very different from what a western listener is used to.
“It’s very exciting. It stretches the players and the audience,” said Lenhard.
One of the greatest moments of the weekend came next.
“After the first two songs the band played, I felt that they were doing it so right, and just before I started the third song I realized, ‘this is going really well.’ I raised my baton and looked around the band and saw all these earnest faces like ‘let’s go. Let’s throw this march at them.’ It was just a big surge of adrenalin,” described Lenhard.
The Concert Band concluded their set with Sincinnatus by H. A. Vandercook, a lively march to show off all parts of the band.
“I really enjoyed hearing my piano players play the concert Steinway in the Sitka Performing Arts Center,” said Lenhard.
Petersburg’s Concert Choir made a big impression on the festival judges with their three songs “Requiem” by Eliza Gylkson, “Angels Carry Me Home” a traditional spiritual arranged by Purifoy, and "Into the West" from Return of the King arranged by Billingsly.
“Choir was the group that improved the most during the past few months,” said Lenhard. “They’ve had three performances this year prior to the Music Fest and after each, they had great self evaluation.”
The judges were pleased by the variety of tunes the Jazz Band played including, “Swing Machine” by Larry Neeck, “Mood Indigo” by Duke Ellington, “Time after Time “by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn, and “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder.
There were also four performances by small ensembles of Petersburg students.
Maria Lopez and Abbey Taylor performed a flute duet. Cynthia Benitz and Maria Lopez also played a flute duet. There was a vocal duet by Stephanie Pfundt and Robyn Schwartz, and a low brass quartet by Brittany Fonseca, Bud Bergen, Skipper Erickson and Abel Aulbach.
“I was really pleased with the small ensembles and their performances. It takes a lot of effort and extra time to work out those songs. It’s a lot less of my coaching and mostly them working it out. They all had great feedback and mostly superior ratings,” said Lenhard.
This year each group from Petersburg voted for an outstanding musician.
The Concert Band’s outstanding musician was percussionist Cody Wegener, the Concert Choir selected alto Ellie Robinson, and Bud Bergen on trombone was selected by the Jazz Band.
The music fest capped off a great year of hard work and persistent practice.
“They also got to hear how they sounded compared to the rest of the region, and it was very good. Petersburg does stand out as a strong music program in Southeast Alaska,” said Lenhard.
The community will have a final chance to hear the student musicians during the upcoming graduation ceremony on May 22. There will be performances by the Concert Band and Concert Choir.