When Mason High School band director Robert Bass attended a college band’s performance at New York City’s Carnegie Hall four years ago, he knew he wanted his students to share the opportunity.
“I said, ‘Wow, this is a fantastic place.’ It just felt great. I thought it would be wonderful to have our kids there,” said Bass.
On Friday, Mason’s wind symphony and symphonic bands will have the chance to perform on one of music’s most grand stages.
The 124 performers in Mason’s bands will join an Illinois high school band to perform “The Best of the Midwest” at 8 p.m. The bands will be the feature performers in an evening show, a time that is usually set aside for college and professional bands.
An audience of at least 1,500 is expected, including about 350 family members and friends of Mason band members who are making the trip.
“We have a talented band, motivated directors and parents who wanted to make it happen,” said Diane Pfennig, president of the Mason Band Boosters. “We were really fortunate we have all those pieces coming together.”
But putting those pieces together took a concerted effort, trip organizers said. The band was selected to perform at Carnegie Hall last year, but Bass concluded that the costs would be too prohibitive for most band families.
Later, Bass met the band director of the John Hersey High School band, the Arlington Heights, Ill., band performing with Mason, and the two directors worked together to split costs.
The bands’ trip is entirely self-financed, said Bass. Students sold discount cards to local restaurants and supporters solicited donations for a scholarship fund, which will cover costs for at least six students who would otherwise be unable to afford the nearly $1,000 per student price tag.
Nationally renowned recognition is nothing new for Mason’s bands. In 2009, the John Phillip Sousa Foundation awarded its prestigious Sudler Flag of Honor to Mason’s marching band.
The wind symphony and symphonic bands regularly receive superior ratings at the district and state levels from the Ohio Music Education Association and have participated in national events like the National Concert Band Festival and the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic.
Band members have been putting in 10-15 hours a week in personal and group rehearsals the past several months in preparation.
“I’ve played at Music Hall before,” said Chris Rueda, a junior clarinetist, who also plays with the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra. “Now multiply that by a thousand.”
The students will perform eight pieces, three by the symphonic band and five by the wind symphony band.
The symphonic band will perform Frank Ticheli’s “Fortress,” Larry D. Dahn’s “As Summer Was Just Beginning” and Claude T. Smith’s “Concert Variations.”
The wind symphony will perform Ron Nelson’s “Rocky Point Holiday,” Eric Whitacre’s “The Seal Lullaby,” Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Forza Del Destino Overture,” H. Owen Reed’s “La Fiesta Mexicana” and “3. Carnival” and John Astacio’s “Frenergy.”
On the trip, the students will also take a bite of the Big Apple, with a multi-cultural food tour and visits to popular tourist sites. They will also see a performance of “Wicked” on Broadway.
“It’s going to be the field trip of a lifetime,” said Herron Rueda, a band booster and parent chaperone.