When the wind ensemble from Athens Drive High School performs on the main stage at Carnegie Hall next month, those 60 young musicians have the chance to represent not just the ensemble but their entire school.
That’s the goal for longtime Athens Drive band director Jerry “Doc” Markoch.
“This gives us an identity,” he said. “I love that the name Carnegie Hall is lifting all of us, the entire school.”
The wind ensemble will perform three pieces during their March 24 concert and receive comments from noted music educators. They’ll also participate in a clinic to further sharpen their skills.
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The chance to perform during the National Band and Orchestra Festival is by invitation only and only a few schools from around the country participate.
Markoch said that the band program at Athens Drive always has been strong, but their reputation has solidified in recent years, earning them this kind of invitation.
“I’m really, really proud of the strides we’ve taken in the past 10 years,” he said.
Preparation for the concert has meant endless hours of practice to make sure every note is just right but also to prepare for the mental challenge of a major performance.
It’s an endeavor that involves clearing physical, mental and emotional hurdles, said Markoch. And in that way, he hopes the experience gives students a foundation for any other challenges they confront in their lives.
“It’s about being the very best you can be,” he said.
The student musicians in the wind ensemble, composed of the school’s most advanced musicians, say they’ve taken Markoch’s advice to heart.
Colin Lanier, 17, a baritone player, said his experience in the Athens Drive band program has made him a better musician, but also given him leadership skills and a support system.
“I’ve grown from this. I’m a much better person because of this,” he said.
The performance also is a chance for the students to travel with a closely-knit group of friends, mostly juniors and seniors.
“I think that’s the coolest part, being there with everyone else,” said Mandy Spalding, 18, a trumpet player.
Students and parents alike say one of the driving factors in the band’s success is Markoch’s dedication and enthusiasm.
“You can tell the difference between teachers who teach and teachers who teach with a purpose. You can tell he loves what he does,” said Heather Timothy, 17, an alto sax player.
The wind ensemble will perform “Commando March” (1943) by Samuel Barber, “Blue Shades” (1997) by Frank Ticheli and “Elsa's Procession to the Cathedral” (1848) by Richard Wagner.
The trip has also required a major fundraising push, with help from the band program’s alumni network and parent booster club.
To donate to the band program, visit athensarts.net/carnegie-hall-alumni-drive.