Young musicians fine tune their skills at Region 1 Music Festival

Apr 14, 2015

Visiting students from four western Alaska schools made their way to Dillingham for the Regional Music Festival April 9-11. 

Nearly 150 band and choir members flew in from Nome, Bethel, Kotzebue, and Unalakleet.

By Thurday, the Middle School gym was lined with duffel bags, music stands, and instrument cases. Claps of percussion, tuning woodwinds, and piano harmonies were heard throughout the day as students prepared for their performances and the chance to go to the state competition.

Nome senior trombone player Oliver Hogendorn said he was nervous, but ready, to perform his solo for a judge. “I practiced a lot for the past few months, so I’m looking forward to it,” he said.

The soloists who received the highest scores were invited to perform at the grand finale concert on Saturday night. Those honored soloists were alto vocalist Jadyn Otton and trumpet player Jason Gilder, both of Nome, Sikuluq Johnson of Unalakleet on trombone, Dillingham senior Brian Venua on piano, and vocalist Matt “Rug” Cochrane of Bethel.

Inclement weather delayed the groups from Unalakleet and Kotzebue, but the musicians managed to successfully prepare pieces for the festival chorus, honor band, and massed band with one day less of rehearsal than expected.

The festival chorus of more than forty singers was directed by Gwendolyn Brazier, a guest conductor from the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. The chorus and soloists were accompanied by Kristi Kleaver on piano.

The massed band, composed of all the five schools’ instrumentalists, played five pieces directed by Dave Williamson.

The band selections included the world premiere of “March of Nobles,” composed by 17-year-old Brian Venua. He was thrilled to hear his original work live for the first time. “I’ve been working on this piece for a year,” said Venua after the performance. “It’s just amazing to see all my friends and these people I’ve known for years come out and play my song together.”

Solo and ensemble musicians who received a qualifying score for Region 1 will travel to Anchorage for the state competition in May.

Recordings from the weekend: 

Contact the author at hannah@kdlg.org.