Wooster High School band to perform at Severance Center with Cleveland Youth Wind Symphony

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Note: This story has been updated to add information and correct an error. See correction at bottom.

WOOSTER – Music echoed down the winding hallways of Wooster High School as the symphonic band practiced one Thursday afternoon. Even though the group recently had a concert, band director Craig French hopes to make a few last-minute changes to some of their songs before their big performance at the end of the month.

Each time the group played through a song, French would make suggestions like “play this part out more” or “watch me for that entrance” and his students would nod along and mark their music as they went.

Having waited a year for this performance, both French and his students know they only have one chance to make an impression.

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Since the start of the school year, the Wooster Symphonic Band has been preparing for its performance with the Cleveland Youth Wind Symphony as part of the Northeast Ohio Band Invitational on Jan. 30 at Severance Music Center in Cleveland. The performance opens with its first group at 2 p.m., the Wooster band is set to perform around 7 p.m., and tickets can be bought online through the Cleveland Orchestra website.

What the performance is and how Wooster became a part of it

The Northeast Ohio Band Invitational is an annual performance sponsored by the Cleveland Institute of Music where members of the Cleveland Youth Wind Symphony get to perform, and local college and high school bands are invited to join them. This year’s performers include the Kent State University Wind Ensemble and four high schools, including Wooster High School.

Getting invited to the concert, that is something that is mainly based on your program’s prominence and performance French said, as there is no formal application or audition process.

“There is no real magic formula to being invited other than a reputation of your program and making it known that you'd like to attend,” French said.

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Last year, French had shared his interest and got an invitation for the symphonic band to perform, later sharing the news with his students over the summer during band camp for the marching band. Once the school year began, French and his students got to work choosing and practicing their songs.

The songs the band will be performing include some upbeat and faster paced songs, such as a British march by Gustav Holst and a percussion-heavy, machine-like song called “Industrial Loops,” and some slower, emotional pieces like Ava Maria and a piece about the Korean War called “Inchon.”

Craig French, the band director at Wooster High School, conducts the symphonic band class as they rehearse several songs they plan to play during a concert at Severance Hall. French said the group has been preparing for the concert for months and is very excited for the performance.
Craig French, the band director at Wooster High School, conducts the symphonic band class as they rehearse several songs they plan to play during a concert at Severance Hall. French said the group has been preparing for the concert for months and is very excited for the performance.

To help the students prepare, French said they would have in-class rehearsal time to play together as a group and weekly rehearsals outside of school hours to work on more specific areas of the songs. Guest conductors such as Nancy Ditmer, a retired band director from the College of Wooster, were brought in to help work with the group and to offer critiques as they got closer to the performance.

“I explained this was an earlier performance than we were used to and I said, ‘We can't go slow here you guys,’” French said. “... They're really disciplined and they care. They care enough to take it home and practice.”

Meaning behind the performance

Since there are only a few schools that get invited each year, French said his students were very excited to be chosen this year.

“It's just such a big honor for a high school band,” said Jhon Fajardo, a senior at Wooster High School and flute player in the band. “It's about the biggest honor we can achieve. So, the fact that we were chosen for it is really special.”

Jhon Fajardo, a senior at Wooster High School, plays his flute in the symphonic band class as the class rehearsse some songs for an upcoming concert at Severance Hall. Farjardo said he has been playing the flute since fourth grade and is very excited for their upcoming performance.
Jhon Fajardo, a senior at Wooster High School, plays his flute in the symphonic band class as the class rehearsse some songs for an upcoming concert at Severance Hall. Farjardo said he has been playing the flute since fourth grade and is very excited for their upcoming performance.

French said he is looking forward to the performance to not only showcase all the work his students have put in, but also to give them the experience of playing in a unique space such as Severance Hall.

“When they get to play that last chord,” French said. “And it rings and rings and rings in the hall, I hope that's a moment that they always remember.”

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How it will work and how to get there

The Cleveland Institute of Music is hosting the event at Severance Music Center in Cleveland.

Tickets, which are $10 per person, can be bought ahead of time through the Cleveland Orchestra website, where guest requirements are also listed.

The Wooster symphonic band performs in the Performing Arts Center at Wooster High School.
The Wooster symphonic band performs in the Performing Arts Center at Wooster High School.

Among the requirements listed on the website are proof of vaccination, including the booster shot, or proof of a negative COVID test prior to entering the performance hall. Facemasks will also be required for anyone attending a performance and those over the age of 18-years-old must have a valid photo ID with them.

Posts on the website recommend guests arrive early and pre-paid parking can also be purchased online.

Correction: The Cleveland Youth Wind Symphony is performing in the Northeast Ohio Band Invitational on Jan. 30. And the event is being hosted by the Cleveland Institute of Music. This information wasn't reported when the story initially published on Jan. 23.

Reach Rachel Karas at rkaras@gannett.com

On Twitter: @RachelKaras3

This article originally appeared on The Daily Record: Cleveland Youth Orchestra invites Wooster High school to concert

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