Bands tune up for competition

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 14, 2004

While the crisp bite of fall is in the air, hundreds of young musicians are planning to heat up the weekend as they compete for recognition with their peers.

The Buckeye Classic band competition is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Ironton High School.

Fifteen bands are on tap to participate including Rock Hill, Symmes Valley, South Point, Dawson-Bryant, Green, Wheelersburg and Portsmouth West. Admission is $5.

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"(The Buckeye Classic) is an opportunity for students to show off advancement," said Bill Rath, band director at Ironton High School.

Each group will have 15 minutes to perform and be judged by a panel of nine members from the Ohio Music Education Association (OMEA). Trophies will be awarded for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in C, B, A and AA classes. (Classes are based on school enrollment size.) Grand Champion and Best Overall distinctions will also be awarded.

To prepare for their chance, Ironton High's band has practiced eight to 10 hours per week since July, Rath said. On Saturday, he and his students plan to fight the autumn chill with some sizzling summer tunes by Jimmy Buffet. But Buffet's laid-back island philosophy hasn't caused the band to lose sight of their goals.

"It's a lot of fun," Joe Crowe, a 15-year-old ninth grade percussionist from Ironton, said. "We put a lot of time and effort into it. We all want to do real good."

Crowe's band mate agreed.

"Competition means a lot to usŠit's the perfect opportunity to show how good we are," Kimberly Bond, a 17-year-old senior trumpet player from Ironton, said.

Bond said the band has yet to move to the second round, but everyone is hopeful this year will be different.

"Some of the seniors want to go to State (competition). It's the last chance some of us will have."

What awaits these students should they make it to the next level and win that contest?

"They get a big plaque and a lot of prestige," Rath said.

Perhaps the most important incentive for advancing in the competition is more basic to these high schoolers who sounded a bit like a chorus when they made the following statement in unison:

"A free steak dinner," they said laughing.

Standing in their way are other schools in the same class, including nearby Rock Hill. While Band Director Scott Jones wouldn't say that his students are destined to win, he and Assistant Director Rhonda Pemberton are confident in the band's ability. Like Ironton, they have been preparing for this competition since July.

"I know our kids will do the best they can," Jones said. "That's all we ask them to do."

Jones said his band will be performing songs with a southern flavor on Saturday. The styles of music played during the contest range from Classical to Popular. Most groups play three to six numbers during their 15-minute show.

So, did Jones' Ironton counterpart think his band was ready to Buffet the competition?

"We're getting there," Rath said. "I'm glad we still have a couple of days to practice."