The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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April 3, 2013

Sixth-graders tune up for district music fest

— More than 180 sixth-graders aspiring to reach the heights of the musical scale will gather Friday for Pennsylvania Music Educators Association’s District 6 Band Fest and Percussion Ensemble.

The young musicians from Cambria, Somerset, Bedford and Blair counties will descend on Chestnut Ridge Middle School in Fishertown.

The students will rehearse during the day and present a public concert at 7 p.m. in the school’s auditorium.

This marks the second time that Chestnut Ridge has hosted the event. James Ballow, band director for students in grades six through 12, views the festival as an opportunity to gain valuable experience.

“It also instills a love of performing that we hope will inspire them to continue with their music as they get older,” Ballow said.

The guest conductor for the band is Marc Nelson of Indiana, an elementary instrumental teacher in United School Dis­trict and a member of Johns­­town Symphony Orchestra.

“This gives the students the opportunity to perform in a large band with all the instrument families represented,” Ballow said.

As an added incentive, 27 musicians will perform in the percussion ensemble. This marks the fifth year the ensemble has been part of the Band Fest. This group was created by Ballow and Allen Bixel, Conemaugh Valley band director.

The Percussion Ensemble performs music for all percussion instruments.

In honor of the five-year performance, Ballow and Bixel arranged “American Patrol” for the percussion ensemble.

“This gives the percussion students the opportunity to perform specific percussion music on all the various percussion instruments,” Ballow said.

“District 6 is the only PMEA district to have a special ensemble like this.”

The number of students selected for the festival is determined by the number of homerooms in each of the represented elementary schools.

“We take one from each homeroom who will perform a level of music that is more difficult than most elementary school bands would attempt,” Ballow said.

The band’s program includes “Suncatcher,” “Drive,” “Salvation Is Created,” “The Tempest,” “Guardians of Liberty” and “Let’s Rock.”

Admission to Friday’s concert is $4 for adults and $2 for students. Tickets will be available at the door.

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