The best of the best in the Santa Clarita Valley took the stage on Saturday night at the William S. Hart Union High School District’s Honor Band Concert, held in Hart High School’s auditorium.
Musicians from local junior high and high schools went through a rigorous audition process just to be able to have a seat in the show, according to event organizers.
“Kids go through a strenuous audition process that requires them to play technical exercises and they’re adjudicated by a panel of judges,” said Anthony Bailey, band director at Hart. “So we really take the best of the best of both the junior high students and the high school students.”
One of these students was trumpeter Riley Green, who said preparing early for the audition wasn’t just good advice — it was practically required and that getting a seat on the band was an honor.
“I mean, it feels fantastic because it takes a lot of preparation, you can’t walk in and be like, ‘I picked this up a week ago and spent an hour on it this week.’ No. You get it winter break and if you don’t start it then, you’re never gonna be ready,” said Green. “So I mean, it’s a lot of stuff and it really tests how well you know your interest because the stuff they pick out is meant to test the full capabilities of the instrument itself. So it really takes all your skills, all your capability.”
The bands on the ticket also featured two guest conductors: Phil Mortensen and Dwayne S. Milburn. Bailey said having guest conductors come in gives the players a different perspective on pieces they may have worked on with another instructor.
Mortensen is the director of orchestras at Yorba Linda High School and served as the president of the California School Band and Orchestra Association. Mortensen also has an Educator of the Year Award from the California Music Education Association among his accolades.
Milburn, who holds a doctorate degree from the University of California Los Angeles, served as the director of cadet music for the United States Military Academy at West Point. Formerly the acting director of the wind ensembles at CSUN and CSULA, Milburn is a lecturer in music at UCLA and serves as music director at St. Mathew’s Parish School in Pacific Palisades.
“What’s unique about this particular event is it’s completely director-run. So we don’t receive any additional money to run this event,” said Bailey. “It’s just really us instructors coming together to make sure the event happens — from coordination [to] bringing in outside conductors to work with the kids and that is one of the things that’s different and unique.”
A total of 68 students made the Junior High Honor Band and 89 students made the High School Honor Band.