6 March 2023
The Atholton Bands have never been tested more. Through hours of playing, hard work, and evaluation, the musicians needed to push themselves like never before. But was it worth it?
The annual Winter Band Workshop was held the weekend of February tenth with intent to be able to work on a larger scale of music in an extended amount of time.This is an event that both the Symphonic/Concert band and Wind Ensemble had to attend. The workshop was on both Friday and Saturday and featured many programs including full rehearsals, sectionals, masterclasses, and even team building. Over the entirety of the 12 hour workshop, students were able to improve in their musicality and repertoire, while creating new bonds with members of other bands.
One of the main concerns leading up to the workshop was the time commitment. All members were required to attend, aside from uncontrollable circumstances. The workshop was also very lengthy, going from 4pm-9pm on Friday and 9:30am-3:30pm on Saturday.
“I was dreading the workshop a bit, as I knew it would be a long day.”said Carson Wargo, a clarinet player in the Wind Ensemble. Like Wargo, many students had concerns on the amount of time that the workshop took away from their weekend, but others thought that there wasn’t enough time spent on specific programs.
Eric Posner has been Atholton’s band director for the last 15 years. Posner ended up decreasing the overall workshop time by more than an hour. “From last year to this year we shortened it,” Posner said. “You guys just don’t see that because you only see what’s in your year.” The music program is aware of this lengthy event and is evaluating the results of this year’s workshop in hopes to improve next year’s event even more.
In addition to the time commitment, many band members had questions and concerns on the price of the workshop. Everyone had to pay $45 dollars, which covered food and paying the professional musicians. This was only a concern this year, because last year, the price was almost half of this year. “I don’t know why the price was greater but it didn’t bother me much because the overall experience was good.” said Logan Rhoades, the bass trombone in the Wind Ensemble. Posner expressed that the uptick in the price was due to the price of the food and the professionals that were involved in the workshop. Each year, Posner brings in new musicians so his students can get input based on different perspectives.
Posner had professional musicians come in and help work with the students on their specific instruments. The first event was a recital where every musician played a short piece on their instrument. Posner saw this as an opportunity for band students to see what great playing sounds like on their own instrument. “I know the basics of every instrument, but I’m a saxophonist,” Posner said. He can’t provide individual support for each student or their specific instrument in the band, so the professionals were able to take that responsibility. Shortly after the solo recital, the musicians went right into sectionals.
Posner’s main objective of sectionals was to allow individual band sections to improve their repertoire and musicianship on their own without the distraction of other sections. “I liked the change of pace from our normal routines,” Wargo said. Sectionals allowed for a change in the band schedule and many students enjoyed this time with the professionals. Posner is already thinking about which professionals to bring in next year.
After the sectionals, was the full rehearsal with Brian Thomas, the band director at Justice High School in Virginia, who has worked with Atholton before. The bands enjoyed working with Mr. Thomas previously, so many people were excited to hear he was running the rehearsal. Posner’s initial plan was to bring in a band director from Penn State University, but unfortunately she fell ill with COVID, so Posner had to then reach out to someone at the last minute. His first option was Mr. Thomas, and he was very proud of how it worked out.
The following Monday, Mr. Posner spent the class period allowing the Wind Ensemble to converse and reflect on the workshop. All students completed an online reflection that allowed Mr. Posner to get feedback from the workshop. Based on every student’s reflection, the average overall experience was a four out of five. Posner plans on taking every comment into consideration for next year’s Winter Band Workshop and the others that follow.
The completion of the workshop took some weight off of everyone’s shoulders. Even though it was difficult and exhausting, Posner see’s it as “a new level of intensity” for the band members. He compares the workshop to a booster shot, meaning that the bands were able to dig deeper over a longer period of time, which allows for significant improvement in all aspects of music.
The band workshop has been the most controversial event so far this year for the Atholton Music program due to mixed opinions. There was a lot of criticism and praise, but through it all, the Atholton bands were able to improve significantly.