YMS band students excel
Ken McLemore, Hope Public Schools

HOPE – The question for the Yerger Middle School band program is not whether a student will excel; but, how high that student will reach, evidenced by YMS band students who have been invited to participate in prestigious band clinics at two universities in Alabama.

Five YMS band students recently returned from participation in the University of Alabama Middle School Honor Band Clinic in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The students, including Chloe Pyle, Ke’Ara Key, Kaley Green, Lawrence Adetunji, and Duwon Nsonso, were the only participants from Arkansas among students from Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Arkansas, according to YMS Band Director Sid Barker.

Pyle plays flute; Green and Key play clarinet; Nsonso plays trombone; and Adetunji plays alto saxophone. Pyle, Key and Nsonso are seventh grade students, and Green and Adetunji are eighth grade students.

“There were about 500 applicants and 260 chairs chosen from that pool,” Barker said.

Selection was based upon each student’s musical resume as it related to the number of instruments to be seated in each section, he said.

Recommendations by local band directors were screened to produce the final invitations.

“They each worked on an audition excerpt, and then have some pieces selected,” Barker said.

He said the chair seating was “balanced” in order to provide the maximum experience for students participating.

Pyle, Green, and Key, along with eighth grade student De’Travanta Horton, and Hope High School senior band student Mario Valdez will participate in a Samford University 7-12 band clinic Thursday through Saturday on the Samford University campus in Homewood, Ala.

Barker said the clinic is divided into two high school and two middle school orchestras based upon competitive seating.

“This one will be incredibly competitive,” he said.

Competition at this level is what Hope Bands Director Dr. Peter Maggio and Barker want for Hope band students.

“At the middle school level, research shows that as the most important level developmentally,” Dr. Maggio said.

He said the middle school years are the period when most students develop their lifelong study habits which shape their progress musically and academically.

“If we build on this here, when they get to high school it will be affected automatically,” Maggio said.

And, that carries over into the Hope bands program, as well, as it builds from the middle school foundation upward.

“The administration has been extremely supportive,” Maggio said.

Consequently, the greater emphasis upon skills and technique development at YMS will produce music students who are not only ready for high school level performances, but will excel, he said.

“Everything has to be in place, first,” Maggio said. “We want them to get a better perspective. We tell them, ‘You go to this clinic and learn everything you can, and bring it back and share it.’”