Honors music program returns to county

HANOVERTON- After a hiatus of more than 20 years, the Columbiana County Honors Band and Choir is returning to action.

Featuring the top vocalists and instrumentalists from across the county, the honors programs will perform at 2:30 p.m. April 5 at the United Local High School Auditorium. Admission is $5.

Nominated by their directors, the students- approximately 70 in each the band and choir- will come together to prepare musical selections for the culminating performance. Dr. Stephen L. Gage, director of bands at Youngstown State University, and Dr. Grant Cook, director of choral activities at the University of Mount Union, will be working with the students.

All 11 Columbiana County-based districts were eligible to send students in grades nine through 12 based on the size of the district. The event will include rehearsals the day prior to and morning of the show. The concert will feature the choir first, a 15-minute intermission, the band and finally a combined patriotic finale.

According to coordinators Cindy Neiswanger and Nome Baker, directors of choir and band, respectively, at United Local, the event has been in the works for over a year, starting last school year when all the directors were together for a waiver day. The program is based on Mahoning County’s District 5 honors band at Youngstown State University.

“It’s an opportunity for more advanced students to show off their talents and [a chance] to challenge the students more so than in the classroom,” Baker explained.

Baker said that all directors will be working with the students at the sectional level, but the guest conductors will be working with them during the event to familiarize them with more complex material and techniques.

“Give the kids an idea of what to expect at the next level of musicianship, and hopefully inspire them more,” he said.

Neiswanger added that the program helps the students expand their musical horizons.

“Kids are used to their own setting,” she said. “To get them into larger groups, singing something that is tougher than usual, it helps them see the bigger picture.”

Baker and Neiswanger both expressed hope that the honors program will continue on an annual basis now that it has been resurrected. And, in fact, next year’s program is already scheduled for late March at Crestview.

“We want to set the bar in Columbiana County,” they said.

The concert will be recorded by Rising Sun Entertainment and Productions in Youngstown. DVD and CD copies will be available for purchase.

For information about the honors program visit sites.google.com/site/ccohbc.

Guest conductors: Gage has served as professor of music and director of bands at YSU and as the Edward Zacharias Memorial Chair/Conductor of the Youngstown Symphony Youth Orchestra since 1993, and began serving as assistant conductor of the YSU/Dana Symphony Orchestra in 2006. He holds degrees from the University of Illinois, the Eastman School of Music, and State University of New York at Fredonia where he also earned the Performers Certificate in Percussion. In 1999 Gage was inducted into the prestigious American Bandmasters Association and was named Distinguished Professor at YSU. He and the YSU Wind Ensemble made their NYC Carnegie Hall debut in 2005 have released and produced six CDs since 1998.

Cook teaches concert choir, cantus femina (women’s chorus), choral conducting and choral literature at UMU. An active guest conductor and clinician for a variety of high school choral events, he conducted a choir in 2002 selected by audition to perform at a meeting of the American Choral Directors Association-one of the highest honors of the profession.