Five Black Hills students attended and performed at the All-Northwest Conference in Bellevue over President’s Day weekend after being accepted to the program in November of last year.
The conference, which enlists renowned composers and conductors from across the nation to work with students, brought in Dr. Gary P. Gilroy from California State University, Fresno to instruct the honor band and Dr. Lynn M. Brinckmeyer from Texas State University to conduct the honor choir.
Emma Lindemeier, a piccolo player and second-time attendant of the conference, notes the increased difficulty of the pieces the honor band played in comparison to the first time she attended the conference in 2015: “The music was definitely a lot harder this year for the whole ensemble”. Lindemeier, however, found the challenge refreshing, enjoying the hard work that was required for playing music that was so “well-written and really intricately scored”. She identifies one piece- part one of “Armenian Dances”, composed by Alfred Reed- as her favorite from this conference, due to its difficulty and the fact that it was “just really catchy”.
Euphonium player Taylor Reno, who attended All-State band last year, emphasizes the importance of being given the opportunity to perform at the Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle, which is the resident home of the Seattle Symphony. “Compared to school, where we perform in our theatre, the sound difference was amazing. Obviously the architecture was completely different.” Reno was awarded the opportunity to perform a solo during the honor band’s culminating performance at Benaroya Hall.
The conference leaves musicians with important lessons to bring back to their music programs at home, instructing attendees not only in performance quality, but also in technical skill. Reno explains that among other techniques, students were taught “how to breathe before [they] play”, a skill she believes will be “really important in the long-run” for her as a musician. All-Northwest also posed multiple challenges for the musicians during the rehearsal portion of the conference. Lindemeier cites the difficulty of bringing together such high caliber musicians from across the Northwest, stating that many are used to playing with smaller bands and sometimes forget “how to play in an ensemble. Everyone’s playing really loud, so it’s kind of hard to get everyone to remember that [they’re] in a section of twenty, not three”.
Overall, the opportunities that students are given at the All-Northwest conference are unique and difficult to find elsewhere. Reno emphasizes how important honor bands are to musicians: “You get to know multiple people and you kind of get your foot in the door for future musical reference”.
The All-Northwest Conference brings students from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Alaska biannually to work with distinguished guest composers and conductors and to perform in honor groups of fellow high school musicians. Students are accepted to the conference by audition-only and receive their performance pieces one month before the conference to study.
Students from across the Northwest work together and form friendships that last long after the conference ends. Pictured here: piccolo player Emma Lindemeier and fellow honor band members. (Photo credit: Emma Lindemeier)
By Gabby Connors