Nearly three dozen students from the Indian River High School Band were set to perform in the junior and senior County Band this week, on March 1 at Cape Henlopen High School.
“It’s all the high schools and junior-high schools in Sussex County. Each county has their own. We call ours County Band,” explained IRHS Band Director Mark Marvel. “Basically, you take the best musicians from each school, by audition. Then you put together a band, and then usually you have a two-day festival.”
The two-day music festival is made up of a junior and senior band, where students from across the county have to audition to fill one of the approximately 75 seats in each band. This year, 34 students – nearly half of all the students selected – were IRHS students.
“For the senior-high kids, they have to memorize seven scales, up to three sharps and three flats on the chromatic. Then they have a prepared solo, and then they have to sight-read some music,” said Marvel.
“For the junior high, they have the same scales, but they don’t have to memorize them. They’re allowed to use the sheet and then they also have a prepared solo, which is much shorter than the senior high, and they don’t have to sight-read.”
Both bands held three-night rehearsals and two all-day rehearsals before their final concert. Paul Parets, the former band director at A.I. duPont High School in Wilmington will be this year’s guest conductor for the senior band.
“The theory behind it is, the kids that are the better players in your group, they get to work with a different guest conductor, which is a very educational experience. Plus, they get to play harder music that they can’t play in their own bands, because this is the best of the best in the county.”
IRHS freshman Farris Hauck said she didn’t know about County Band until Marvel had suggested she audition for it, but she was pleased when she was selected for the percussion section.
“It’s pretty fun, because you have a bunch of people who care about playing music and take it seriously.”
This will be junior Jacob Rickards’ second year in County Band, playing tuba, but his first in the senior band.
“It’s just awesome,” Rickards said, “just the experience of being outside of the Indian River band and learning more.”
The IRHS band members who made senior County Band are: Schyler Adkins, Brian Baull, Katie Bird, Ray Brown, Chris Chapdelaine, Hanna Hattier, Bradlee Hitch, Michaiah Hook, Rachel Jackson, Kristin Kneller, Taylor Littlefield, Kyle Marvel, Will McCabe, Natalie Nitz, Kelsey Oli, Jackie Pavik, Taylor Reeves, Jacob Rickards, Maggie Saylor, Richard Scrivani, Dylan Simpson, Ryan Staib, Rebecca Webb, Brandon Williams and Trey Williams.
The IRHS band members who made junior County Band are Farris Hauck, Alison Jennings, Thomas Litchfield, Ciera Morris, Seung Son, Joshua Souder, Jewel Tomlinson, Kenly Velasquez and Phoebe Walls.
Marvel said it is not required that the students in his 109-member band audition, but many did. He added that he is extremely proud of his students who tried out.
“It makes me so proud. We always have one of the largest groups,” he said. “It’s always been important to me. I push kids to go for it. It’s one of those things that goes on your résumé for the rest of your life. It’s like when you go on your first job interview and they look: ‘Oh, you were in County Band.’ ‘Oh, you were in All-State.’ All of that stuff is really important. So it means a lot to me that so many kids went out for it.”
He added that he believes music education is crucial for young people and that he is pleased that his department includes a marching band, concert band, stage band, chorus and show choir.
“I think it’s priceless. I think it’d be devastating for these kids if they didn’t have this,” he said. “For a tiny little school in Dagsboro, we really give them a lot of opportunities. The arts are just so important.”