The man with the baton made a simple request.
“Give me glorious sound on that last note. Make it feel like takeoff,” he said.
The wand dipped, swept from left to right. After that, if you closed your eyes, you could just about see a twin-engine Lockheed Electra barrel down a western runway and into the sky.
If they were open you saw composer and conductor Robert W. Smith leading a hundred high-school musicians through “Earhart, Sounds of Courage,” a piece he wrote about the legendary aviation pioneer.
“You can feel the momentum,” he told them when they had played the passage to his satisfaction.
More important, the audience will feel it, he clarified later during a break. “Music is an amazing universal language, and has to be delivered with passion, honesty and appropriate emotion for us to communicate,” he said.
It is a pretty safe bet Smith and the musicians found that emotional groove by the end of their all-day rehearsal Friday, even though most of them were strangers to one another 24 hours earlier.
In the band community, Smith is a pretty big deal, having composed some of the standard pieces performed by high-school ensembles on football fields and auditorium stages across the United States.
He has written and published more than 600 pieces and worked extensively in the film industry. Attentive movie fans can hear his work in, among others, the recent caper comedy “The Tower Heist,” which involves a sequence during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. A band in the sequence is playing a Smith piece.
The musicians are a pretty big deal too — selected by audition for the Kentucky Music Educators Association District 8 all-district band. They represent the best players from high schools across a wide swath of eastern Kentucky, said John Johnson, band director at Boyd County High School and band chairman for KMEA’s District 8.
The band, along with its middle-school equivalent, will play a concert at 2:30 p.m. today at the Paramount Arts Center. Inclusion in the band is a coveted honor for young musicians.
In two days of intense rehearsals, they meet equally talented players and learn more challenging pieces than they are accustomed to. “For most of them it is a much larger band, a higher-quality ensemble and a higher level of music than back home,” Johnson said.
Those things alone make it a weekend to remember, according to Brock Leonhart, a Greenup County High School senior percussionist.
“It’s amazing when you get students, young musicians to come together in two days and be able to play a concert,” Leonhart said.
Perhaps the reason it can be done has something to do with the musicians almost never putting down their instruments. Leonhart made his observations during a break while playing an impromptu conga duet with John Tyree, a Montgomery County High School senior he had met at the first rehearsal the night before.
“We’re getting to spend time with people who hold a common interest,” Tyree said. “It’s the only time we get to play really challenging music. I hope we can pull it off.”
The concert is open to the public; admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children 12 and under.
MIKE JAMES can be reached at email@example.com or
The man with the baton made a simple request.
- Local News
Good deed done: ReStore returns cash to owner
Staff of Huntington WV Area Habitat for Humanity ReStore recently discovered a large sum of money in a donated piece of furniture.
Highway to be named for late airman from Morehead
State leaders will join Kentucky Adjutant General Edward W. Tonini in Morehead next week to name a Kentucky highway in memory of a Rowan County native and member of the United States Air Force with 12 years of service who died last year while serving in Afghanistan.S
Food vendor charged in slaying back to selling
A Louisville hot dog vendor who is free on bond after being charged with murder in a suspected case of road rage has returned to selling hot dogs at his long-time perch in front of the courthouse.
2 charged with punishing child with hot sauce
Two people have been charged with criminal abuse after police say they force fed hot sauce and vinegar to a 4-year-old girl on several occasions.
Paul blends privacy with civil rights in speech
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul blended his message of libertarian-fueled privacy policies with civil rights-inspired criminal justice reforms during a speech Friday to the National Urban League’s annual convention in this presidential battleground state.
RONNIE ELLIS: Fancy Farm only days away
We’re just days away from the annual Fancy Farm Picnic and political free-for-all which used to be the “official” beginning of fall campaigns in Kentucky.
07/25/2014 — This Week in the Tri-State
Golden Corral sends children to camp
Ashland’s Golden Corral teamed with other restaurants across nation this year to raise $1.5 million to send a total of 3,000 children to Camp Corral.
Burglars steal golf gear
A couple of golf enthusiasts might not make their tee times Saturday because burglars stole golf equipment from their garages.
Music instructor claims age discrimination
The Russell Independent School District is denying allegations of a former band director who claims in a lawsuit the district discriminated against him because of his age.
- More Local News Headlines
- Good deed done: ReStore returns cash to owner