Music reverberates as Marietta College hosts high school competition

Photo by Doug Loyer Taking advantage of the nice weather, Maysville High School students Leah Ayers, 15, Kayley Wilson, 14, and Band Director Patrick Murphy practice outside.

MARIETTA — Nearly 1,000 high school students converged on the Marietta College campus Saturday for the Ohio Music Education Association’s District IX High School Solo and Ensemble Competition.

The event featured student musicians representing 28 high schools in an eight-county district in Southeastern Ohio.

It was the sixth year for the OMEA event being hosted by the Edward MacTaggart Department of Music at MC.

There were approximately 1,500 people total on campus for the event including the high school students, their music directors, family and support groups, the MC Music Department staff and student helpers.

The day consisted of solo and ensemble performances, which consist of two to 24 members. The music students were not competing against other students, but were competing against themselves to see how well they could do.

Photo by Doug Loyer High school students check their performance scores that were posted on the windows at the Hermann Fine Arts Center at Marietta College.

Music categories for the event were voice, piano, woodwinds, brass, percussion and string instruments. Several different instruments fall within those individual categories.

All performances were free and open to the public. The piano and vocal performances were held in the Hermann Fine Arts Center, woodwinds, brass and string performances were held in Thomas Hall and the percussion performances were held in Alma McDonough Auditorium.

The student scores were posted on the walls of the performance buildings so they knew how they did. The musicians were rated on a scale of I-V, with I being a superior rating.

“The purpose of this event is so that the kids actually perform for a judge that is a specialist on their instrument so they can get an assessment or evaluation on their strengths or weaknesses based on hearing from someone else who is specialist other than their band director or choir director,” said Marshall Kimball, chairman of the MC Music Department. “It gives them an outside voice to tell them what they are doing well and what they need to work on.”

“This event is a big opportunity for a lot of high school students in this region,” said Dr. Jay Dougherty, director of choral activities at MC. “It’s a good opportunity for the students to get a level check to see where they’re at. By getting judged, they know what they can work on,” he said.

Dougherty added that the solo and ensemble competition is a lot of fun. He said the high school students love the performing arts and this is another venue for them to perform.

The students that score a Level I Superior rating are invited back on Feb. 25 for the High School Honor Solo Recital. Also, if a student gets a superior rating, they qualify for a scholarship at MC.

“Today we have six ensembles and four solos performing,” said Maizee Bunner, Choir Director at Caldwell High School. “I think this event is very educational for the kids because they get comments that help them improve their performance for their next event. It’s a great experience for area choir and band students to help their skills improve as they get comments from professionals.”

“I did a competition in middle school, but this my first time doing this in high school,” said Cory Bodkin, 17, a student at St. Clairsville High School.

Bodkin said he was ready for his tuba solo performance in Thomas Hall. His instrument of choice was a Yamaha tuba for the musical selection of Beelzebub by Calozzi

“We’re really proud of his efforts,” said his mother, Lori Bodkin. “He’s doing a challenging solo. We know he’s going to do his best!”

With unseasonably warm January weather, some high school musicians were even able to practice outside, such as Maysville students Kayley Wilson, 14, and Leah Ayers, 15. Maysville Band Director Patrick Murphy had his students outside making final adjustments before their performance.

Austin McCoy, 16, from Zanesville High School, practiced while there was a break in the competition.

“I’m ready. I’ve been practicing a lot,” said McCoy. “I play the marimba. The song I will be playing today is ‘Sonata-Allegro’ by Peters. Performing is a little nerve-racking, but it’s worth it.”

Fort Frye High School student Alexandra Dixon, 16, selected “Romance In F, Op. 36” by Saint-Saens for her French horn solo performance.

“This is my second year. I was really nervous,” admitted Dixon, “but it was fun.”

The High School Honors Solo Recital will be 4-6 p.m. Feb. 25 in the Alma McDonough Auditorium at Marietta College. The event is free and open to the public.