by Jonathan Weaver
Approximately 90 high school musicians from the five Armstrong County school districts made both audience members and band directors applaud last night.
The students performed a half-dozen musical selections as part of the annual Armstrong County Band Festival – this year held on Armstrong Junior/Senior High School’s stage.
Guest Conductor Dr. Joseph Pisano, originally of Ambridge (Beaver County), conducted the county band festival for the first time in years.
“It was great to come over and conduct with these incredibly-talented kids,” Pisano said. “These kids brought it right to the top (of musicianship). Anytime you work with college music majors – kids that are studying music for a career. Lot of students in this band may not go into music, but they’re always going to be musicians. And they’re fine ones at that.”
Pisano is currently the Director of Bands and Professor of Music at Grove City College in Mercer County.
Host Band Director Jason Venesky conducted the Star-Spangled Banner, and called the student musicians “a wonderful group.”
“Music is fun, but it’s also very hard work,” Venesky said. “Now, I think the kids had a lot of fun here, but I know they did a lot of work – there’s no doubt about that.”
Freeport Sophomore Tanner Hoscheid was one of four French horn musicians on stage, but the only one of his instrument from Freeport – an instrument he’s mastered since seventh grade.
Hoscheid was also selected for the county band festival last year and then at the junior high county band festival. He said the experience last night and practices at Armstrong Junior-High Monday and Tuesday with Dr. Pisano will help him excel.
Apollo-Ridge Clarinetist Elizabeth Ross explained the 16 Apollo-Ridge musicians selected for the band were challenged by their band director – Gavin Virag.
Virag – Apollo-Ridge’s director for four years and the local Armstrong County Band Directors’ Association – said the collective group of students didn’t rehearse together until Monday morning.
“We knew coming in that we picked the best of the best in Armstrong County. And you pick pieces that will challenge them and you know that they’re going to sound good as long as they bring it,” Virag said. “This group really brought it.
“There’s a lot of hard work put into it, but there’s a very short amount of time we get to work together, and it turned out really, really cool by the end.”
Of the approximately-90 musicians, about half of the instrumentalists on stage were from either Armstrong or West Shamokin High Schools.