Three lives were changed in the course of a few minutes when the names for those Southmoreland students who were qualified to advance into PMEA’s Region Band Festival were announced before the concert for PMEA’s District Band. Senior tuba player Dylan Opalinski was the only one of the three Southmoreland students to be named to state band.
Opalinski will attend at PMEA All State and NAFME (National Association for Music Education) All East Band on April 3-5 at the David Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh.
Opalinski was the only one of the three to be announced for the states roster.
Opalinski’s accomplishment was thrilling for the band program, for it has been three years since anyone has made it to states. In 2016, clarinetist Katie Kimmel, horn player Jason Monroe, and tuba player Benjamin Wilcox were all qualified to state band.
“I encourage anyone to try to involve themselves in music in anyway possible, especially performing arts and playing instruments,” Opalinski said. “I also can’t wait to see what my future holds in store as a music educator.”
Quay Akins was one of the three to qualify, and the news of him advancing was his favorite memory of the entire festival.
“My most enjoyable memory is honestly just hearing that I got Region Band before the concert,” he said. “I could not in a million years begin to express the absolute elation and joy I felt welling up in me during that specific moment in time.”
Ila Greenawalt, along with Dylan Opalinski, were the two remaining advancers. Greenawalt was ecstatic to finally get to meet the guest conductor, Dr. Stephen Gage, a music professor at Youngstown State University, someone whom Mrs. Jamie Gore has told her about frequently.
“I was honestly shocked. I didn’t think the audition went awful, but I didn’t have high hopes that it was good enough. I’m really excited about the guest conductor,” she said. “Mrs. Gore keeps saying how much I’m going to love Dr. Gage. I’m also super excited about getting to room in a hotel with some of the closest friends I’ve met through the festival. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Opalinski was very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the ensemble, and was greatly looking forward to Regions.
“Getting to meet students from the area, and getting to make music that’s usually more challenging than what we’re doing in school is always great,” Opalinski said. “I also love getting to work with another teacher because it allows me to develop and think about my own future teaching methods, and gives me a new perspective about music in general.”
This was Greenawalt’s very first region band, and despite not having much to compare it to, she saw it as a wonderful experience.
“This is the highest ensemble I’ve ever played in,” she said. “We had a lot of fun, and we got a lot of stuff done. Naturally, the repertoire was more challenging, but it was a lot of fun to play too.”
Akins agreed, although he had prior experience. He also was able to take notice of some of the other schools and the musical talent that they had.
“This is definitely a higher caliber group than that of districts, but I forgot how advanced it was since my sophomore year,” he said. “Bands from near Pittsburgh and Seneca Valley were involved, and they have amazing music programs. First chair first part and first pair second part for states are both from Seneca Valley; their auditions for regions were that qualified.”
Opalinski noted how Regions was very “different compared to the district level, in both the skill level and how the guest conductor approached the ensemble.” For his audition, though, he viewed it as similar to that of district band. He saw it as “just fair.”
“I didn’t think anything of it,” he said. “I can tell when an audition went bad, but I can never tell if it’s good. I’m usually pretty confident, and I felt that this audition was OK.”
Akins agreed, noting that he was not very far off from his usual preparedness.
“My audition was around the same as the one for districts,” he said. “It possibly could have been more prepared, but I wasn’t very far off at all. There was only about one person above me that didn’t make it into states.”
Unlike Opalinski and Akins, however, Greenawalt believed that she had a very good audition, but didn’t completely expect the level of competitiveness between the flute section.
“With the flutes, there was much more of a competitive aspect than before. At districts, I clearly remember this group of three girls that said that they didn’t even touch the folder until the day of, but with regions, all of the flutes were determined to make it to states,” she said. “I received fourth chair from the last on second part, and at the time I was a little confused, because I thought my audition went really well. Once I saw the competitiveness of the flutes though, I understood why I got what I got.”
“Basically, it was wake up, grind, sleep, repeat,” said Akins of the practice sessions.
This festival created “more opportunities for something crazy or funny to happen,” according to Opalinski, due to it being an overnight festival.
“When we got there, I was confused off the bat, because I was listed as D.A. Greenawalt.” she said. “My name was Doug Greenawalt on the hotel sheet! I don’t know how they messed up that bad.”
In addition to the shenanigans, each student loved working with Dr. Gage, the guest conductor for the event.
“Dr. Gage, when asked what his icons were when growing up, listed the four B’s: Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, and the Beatles,” said Greenawalt. “I love Dr. Gage a lot. He made the experience very personable and, unlike other guest conductors, took time to look at your name tag and would use someone’s name as an example while talking to the entire ensemble. He included everyone.”
Akins agreed, saying how he “couldn’t deny how fun and enriching to play under him.”
At the rehearsal following auditions, the students received the information that they were all waiting for: who made it to PMEA All State Band.
Despite not moving on to the next level, Greenawalt and Akins are greatly looking forward to their futures in music, but they agree that they will miss the wonderful memories that come with band festivals.
“I love festivals. I love the trips to and back from the host school. Just my friends, Mrs. Gore and I making conversation, inside jokes, and memories that we’ll all remember forever,” Greenawalt said. “That’s something that’ll never happen again. I’m also gonna miss getting to see all of the friends I’ve made through festivals over the years,
“Festivals are one of the biggest things I’ve looked forward to my entire high school career. Not only do they expand my music repertoire knowledge, but they also push me to want to get better. The music is extremely challenging, but it’s helped me to learn how to practice efficiently and just has taught me when to know when to stop for the day.”
“Although I’d like to sit here and tell you I just loved playing the music itself more than anything else, for me it was actually more enlightening just listening to and interacting with so many excellent musicians around my age,” Akins said. “It isn’t often that I get to play in bands where everyone is just ready to play and so greatly impassioned towards their craft, having practiced their individual music immensely. Not to mention, it’s always great to see what I can learn from the guest directors at these events, as these are usually college level professors.”
Greenawalt plans to major in music education at Slippery Rock University, and Akins plans to major in music performance.