DENHAM SPRINGS -- Dr. Kelvin Jones has led many band camps in the past, but he noticed something different about the kids from Livingston Parish minutes into the first rehearsal.
The current assistant director of bands at LSU and a former band director at West Feliciana High School, Jones gets invited to be a guest clinician for roughly five honor bands a year, which is what brought him to Livingston Parish last week as high-schoolers prepared for their annual concert.
It didn’t take long for the students to blow Jones away.
“One thing that was surprising to me, especially with this honor band, was the level of maturity the students had, more so than in other high school honor bands I teach,” Jones said.
“With certain music, it would normally take me longer to get the point across to the kids, but I could say something to this group and in five minutes, it registered. At other schools, that might take a couple hours. The level of maturity with this group has definitely been higher than normal. They’re a talented bunch.”
Jones relayed that message during the 2019 Livingston Parish Honor Band Concert at Denham Springs High School on Saturday, Jan. 12, when more than 160 middle school and high school students delighted the ears of their friends and families with a variety of show-stopping numbers.
Middle-schoolers performed under the direction of Dr. Amanda Schlegel, the assistant professor of instrumental music education at the University of South Carolina, while high-schoolers performed under Jones, also the co-director of the Sudler-winning “Golden Band from Tigerland.”
Though he’s surrounded by some of the best collegiate musicians in the country on a daily basis, Jones was still taken aback at the abilities of his temporary Livingston Parish band students.
“With the music we played, some of the kids asked me, “What if we did it this way and changed it,’” Jones recalled. “A lot of kids just want to make sure they’re playing the right notes, but these kids were thinking of things at a different level. It’s been a welcoming surprise.”
Like Jones, Schlegel also gushed on the talents of her middle-schoolers, who she said embodies “everything you love about the south.”
“They’re good kids; they work as hard as you could ask them to work; they’re curious and ask good questions; they’re polite,” she said. “Everything you love about the south is in these children, with the exception of jambalaya and gumbo.”
Audiences certainly got their musical fill last weekend.
The middle school honor band performed first in the concert, opening with Randall D. Standridge’s “Afterburn” before playing “And Goodnight,” “Pink Lemonade,” Portrait of a Clown” and “Bazaar,” which was “everyone’s favorite by far,” Schlegel said.
“I wish you could see video of the first rehearsal just to see how much they’ve grown in just three days,” she said of her middle-schoolers. “They’re thinking of things above where I was in high school.”
The high-schoolers were up next, performing “76 Trombones,” “Vulcan, Mvt. 2” and “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” before closing with “Conga Del Fuego Nuevo,” arranged by Mexican composer Arturo Márquez.
“If you feel it, get up and bust a move,” Jones playfully told the crowd.
But honor band is about more than learning new music, Jones and Schlegel both said — the experience of playing with students from different schools, in different environments and under different directors is invaluable.
“You make so many memories,” Schlegel said. “I could talk all day about my different honor bands that I still remember vividly. Hopefully they’ve had a moment over the last few days that they’ll remember the rest of their lives.”
Added Jones: “There are still people I have a connection with now who I played with in high school or college band. Just through band, we have this connection that can’t be broken. Some of the people I was in band with are now doctors and lawyers and pharmacists, and you’re all around this central thing of band. I don’t know how many programs or entities have this group of people that have this one common bond.
“You’re going to have kids in this honor band that will go to different walks of life, but they’ll always to able to come back to this moment of playing together in honor band.”
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