HEBRON ESTATES - Hebron Middle School Band students earned a rare opportunity to learn at a college.
Band members recently performed in a concert alongside University of Louisville Symphonic Band students on the stage of Comstock Hall in the university's Music Building.
HMS Band director Wendy Davidson, a former U of L music student, helped to coordinate the event as a way to increase the performing experiences of her students.
Davidson came up with the idea after searching other successful middle school bands throughout the state for comparison with the Hebron band.
"I came across a band from Northern Kentucky that had not only earned distinguished ratings but had also been invited to perform in Washington, DC," she said. "In preparation of their performance, the band gave a performance at a concert hall on the campus of Northern Kentucky University."
Davidson said new Hebron facilities were nice but not the same as a college concert hall.
Over the past summer Davidson worked at the U of L campus with the Middle School Wind Band Institute, coordinated by associate U of L band director Dr. Amy Acklin. Davidson presented her idea to Acklin at a meeting following the completion of the institute.
"My kids should have the opportunity to play in a concert hall, but wouldn't it also be neat if my students were to perform on stage, side by side, with a university band," Davidson asked Acklin.
An idea was prepared by Acklin allowing Hebron students to join U of L students during a dress rehearsal concert. Acklin created the experience as an opportunity for her students to be leaders and role models for the younger students.
Hebron students had an opportunity to meet U of L band members in a clinic rehearsal hosted by Acklin and U of L band director Dr. Frederick Speck, Davidson's former teacher and mentor.
Hebron students sat next to college students who played similar instruments, allowing opportunities to talk about specific musical topics. Following the rehearsal, all students sat side-by-side for one concert performance.
"The event was amazing," Davidson said, "My students played a wonderful performance with the Symphonic Band."
Hebron seventh grader Maiyuki Druen plays the bassoon. She was familiar with the U of L School of Music because her tutor is located there. Other than the All-District band performance last year, this was her only major concert.
"I'm trying to adjust myself, to get used to it," she said of playing in front of a larger audience.
With only two bassoonists at Hebron, they had a lot of opportunity to work with U of L's four bassoonists. Druen said the older students stressed responsibility, hard work, and the need to practice.
"I finally got to see what it's like to play with the professionals," she said. "It's really hard. The U of L players bragged about how good I was to my Dad."
Hebron eighth grader Matthew Colvin performed on baritone sax, his third instrument in three years with the band.
"U of L had eight alto sax players but only one baritone," he said. "He gave me tips and showed me some cool finger techniques."
Colvin enjoyed the experience at U of L, especially discussing music and performing with the older students.
"I enjoyed being on that big stage, seeing that big pipe organ," he said. "It was fun. I was not nervous."
Seventh grader Austin Hardesty was one of the five alto sax students from Hebron, just beginning the instrument last year. He said the three U of L alto sax players offered a lot of conversation both during and after the performances.
"It was a wonderful experience overall," he said. "I would love to do it again."
Hardesty, and other Hebron students, mentioned a difficult exercise featured by U of L, a mind exercise where students repeat notes offered by the conductor and then play them by memory.
"Once you get that down you apply the notes to it," Hardesty said. "They told us it was good practice. I've really enjoyed this whole experience."
Eighth grader Sydney Johnson was one of 13 Hebron students playing clarinet with four U of L students. Johnson also mentioned the all-district show, but said it was different because all of the performers were her age.
"They were not as experienced," she said. "(U of L) played more technical pieces, with more quality sound."
Johnson said the First Chair clarinet player was very nice to all of the Hebron students, offering sound advice.
"She said if you enjoy music then keep doing it," Johnson recalled. "One day you will do something spontaneous with it."
Seeing the college students' skill level reminded Johnson how high school playing will even become a step up for the Hebron students.
"Seeing their level of skill is totally different," she said. "It's so much harder and so much different. It's tricky but it's more fun. You have to work for it."
Johnson was among many Hebron band students wanting to thank Davidson for creating their unique college experience.
"She's really nice, she helps out a lot, and she gives a lot of time for practice and for our fundraisers," Johnson said. "She goes out of her way to help you. She's very sincere about the band."