By Joey McWilliams
DURANT – Southeastern’s Montgomery Auditorium was once again the site of the Southeast Oklahoma Band Directors’ Association All-District Honor Band performances.
For nearly 60 years, the SEOBDA has hosted an All-District weekend for those students selected to be a part of the honor band. The weekend includes a two-day clinic with guest conductors who come to Durant to guide the bands through pre-selected music and to perform for the community.
The students work on the music on Friday through the day and learn from the conductors about the selections and music in general. On Saturday, there is some more fine tuning in the morning before the concerts in the afternoon.
This year, more than 280 honorees comprised three bands: a high school band (10th-12th grades) with 99 participants, a middle school band (eighth and ninth grades) with 94 participants and a seventh grade band with 91 participants. The honorees were chosen from 30 schools in the district at an audition held in November.
The 2018 clinicians/conductors brought in to lead the bands instruct music at all levels.
The seventh grade conductor was Belinda Watson, who teaches sixth through eight grade students at Canyon Ridge Intermediate and Mustang North Middle School in Mustang, Okla. The conductor for the eighth and ninth grade band was Michael Palmer, Director of Bands at Elgin Public Schools, who teaches all grade levels on concert band from fifth grade through high school. And the high school band conductor was Professor Richard Wagner, the Director of Instrumental Ensembles and Associate Professor of Music at the University of Tulsa School of Music.
Alex Langley, a junior at Durant High School, took part in All-District weekend for the fifth time said the weekend was great and that he enjoyed playing the selections Wagner chose for his group.
“The pieces that were picked were very well thought out,” Langley said. “He did a really good job of giving you a taste of everything – you had your slow pieces in there, your fast upbeat pieces and your mysterious pieces. I think he did a really good job with what he chose.”
Langley also said he just had a good time.
“I sat next to some of my McAlester friends and we laughed and had a good time the entire time. It was just a really good experience.”
Following the concert, Wagner addressed the musical ability and talent that has been cultivated in southeast Oklahoma.
“I work these bands all over the state of Oklahoma and even in other states and I think from top to bottom in each of the sections, these kids are as talented as in any region in the state,” Wagner said. “And we have so many kids that made All-State. So many of the band programs in this area are strong and have great traditions. That’s why they’re able to do what they do.
“I pick music that is very difficult, that any high school band would have trouble with, and they played it wonderfully.”
Watson also said her experience was enjoyable with seventh-graders that were ‘delightful.’ She also talked about the effort of her group to be able to play the four pieces selected.
“Normally, in a band, it would take eight weeks to prepare a performance of that much literature,” Watson said. “These kids did it a day and a half and performed a fabulous concert with very few flaws and a lot of passionate musical playing.
“The teaching in southeast Oklahoma from a musical perspective in just absolutely superb. The kids came to my band with solid concepts of musicianship and tone quality, with great technique and great rhythm. So the teaching is just fantastic.”
Audio and video of the concert were recorded by Roach Recording from Kingston.