Science Hill Percussion Ensemble set to perform at international conference

Brandon Paykamian • Apr 22, 2018 at 4:01 PM

Earlier this month, the Science Hill High School Percussion Ensemble received some unexpected news.

According to Director Dan McGuire, the group of young musicians will be the first percussion ensemble from Tennessee to perform at the 72nd Midwest Clinic International Band and Orchestra Conference — an event many within the music world consider to be the “super bowl” of band performances.

After receiving the news, McGuire said the mood was high among the ensemble, whom he said beat “impossible odds” to get the opportunity to perform at the worldwide event. 

“We didn’t expect it. They were honored and humbled to be able to get in and get the opportunity to do it,” he said. “If nothing else, they are getting to perform in Chicago, and these kids love to play.

“First and foremost, these kids enjoy what they’re doing, or they wouldn’t sign up to play at this level.”

The Midwest Clinic International Band and Orchestra Conference is the largest orchestra clinic in the world, held every December in Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center. In order to secure a slot to perform, Science Hill’s Percussion Ensemble had to compete against hundreds of other ensembles of different types from all over the world, McGuire said. 

Usually, only one or two percussion ensembles total are selected to perform. When the ensemble produced their video performance to submit to the judges, the pressure was on to perform at their very best; the students knew they would be expected to play alongside experienced ensembles such as the U.S. Army Band and the Hiroshima Wind Ensemble.

“We competed against hundreds of organizations from around the globe just to be selected to perform there. We were one of two percussion ensembles,” McGuire said. “With the application process for Midwest, you have to actually make a production tape.

“It was a cool experience. It’s like making a record, except you’re not able to make any adjustments to it.”

Despite the high-profile nature of the upcoming concert program, McGuire said the young ensemble is not intimidated to play alongside older and possibly more experienced musicians. They, too, are experienced and capable musicians themselves, McGuire said.

“Our program is accustomed to putting on massive concerts alongside our marching band shows, and it is within our culture to be able to perform at this event. We are prepared and we know what to do. We’ll get it done,” he said. “We are the first percussion ensemble to come from our state, and that’s something we obviously take a lot of pride in. It’s indicative of where the program is at.”

McGuire said the ensemble plans to kick their practice schedule into high gear by the fall, ahead of their arrival to Chicago.

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