The student news site of Greater Latrobe High School

The High Post

The student news site of Greater Latrobe High School

The High Post

The student news site of Greater Latrobe High School

The High Post

Sounds of Success

The Talented Students of Latrobe Take on the PMEA District Band

Twelve students were chosen to represent the Greater Latrobe School District’s music department at the annual Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) district band festival. These twelve students ranging from sophomores to seniors were selected because of their instrumental skills and musical talent. 

At the district band festival is a festival where high school students from the entire PMEA district can audition for a spot in the ensemble. For the students, the audition process is the most time consuming part. They get access to their audition music at the end of the previous year, allowing them to practice, learn, and rehearse music all summer. 

“We all come together on one [audition] day, this year it was October 2nd 2023, we went up to Baldwin High School and got in groups with our sections, I know for the trumpets there were 68 trumpet players, and so they put you in an order and I was 60 so I had to wait for 59 other people,” said Regina Zezza, a junior who has attended district band multiple times.

After all the practicing that these musicians did prior to the auditions come audition day all they can do is wait. Naturally the nerves start to build up as they wait for their turn to show off what they’ve rehearsed. 

“The nerves build up as people are going before you and like eventually you go in the (audition) room and you get one chance to basically show what you’ve practiced for three months and it’s terrifying. But I think the waiting afterwards is the hardest part,” said Abigail Wolfgang, a senior who has also attended district band multiple times playing the french horn. 

Every year, a few hundred talents get together in an intense rehearsal-heavy few days. In these few days they prepare, as one large ensemble, to put on an advanced-level musical performance that they can share with their friends and family. Following the district festival a few musicians who stood out are selected to move on to the next and even more advanced level performance groups. 

For the 2023 festival season Greater Latrobe took on the role of hosting of the district festival. Greater Latrobe has a well-established reputation for being a great location for music festivals, especially festivals of this size. Because of this Latrobe aims to host either a band or choir festival every 4-5 years. 

“We are very fortunate here at the high school to have one of the largest stages on this side of the state, so we try to host these kinds of festivals quite frequently it offers a very comfortable experience for very large ensembles,” said Latobe High School band director Ryan Czekaj. 

Under the leadership from Czekaj, district band is looking to be a great festival.  A lot of time and preparation is involved in getting a large scale festival running smoothly. A lot has to be taken into account: meal arrangements, how to organize these large crowds, equipment storage, and seating arrangements. 

With so much planning needed Czekaj, prior to the festival, is working out all the logistics to ensure that the festival will run smoothly when the time comes and the 125 musicians are welcomed into the Greater Latrobe High School building. 

“Right now I’m in a very logistics-heavy time, I got to do the fun stuff first witch was to help pick the conductor and the music and then now it’s just collecting paperwork and organizing forms and sending out folders. And then the fun part starts again when the students actually get there and we are in the process of rehearsing,” said Czekaj. 

A highlight of the district band festival is that selected musicians get to work directly with a guest conductor who will rehearse and teach the eager-to-learn young musicians. Czekaj being the orchestrator of the festival had a large say in who the guest conductor will be. He ultimately chose a mentor who taught him alot – Dennis Glocke, professor in the music department at Penn State University

“Dennis Glocke of Penn State. He was without question the most impactful mentor in my entire life. He totally shaped who I am as a musician and person. He was the obvious choice when I had the opportunity to pick someone to come in,” said Czekaj.

Part of what makes district band so special is that talented people get chosen to participate. Twelve talented students were selected to represent Latrobe at the district festival this year: sophomore saxaphone Emma Balega; senior flute Sarah Balega; junior clarinet Jack Dixon; sophmore euphonium Dominic Durigon; senior clarinet Brielle Franklin; senior saxaphone Sarah Hoffman; junior trombone Nicklaus Rishel; senior tuba player Landon Shine; junior flute Madison Sloan; senior trumpet Rachel Snyder; senior french horn Abigail Wolfgang; junior trumpet Regina Zezza. 

“It’s really a neat opportunity since there are so few of us chosen to do it every year. It’s so cool and much fun just getting to meet and be role models to younger students. It’s such an honor, “ Wolfgang said. 

Representing Greater Latrobe is a huge honor for these students. They get to represent not only themselves but the entire Greater Latrobe music department.  Playing at such a high level is something that their peers look up to- being role models and leaders in their classes and festivals like this. 

“It’s so cool and much fun just getting to meet and be role models to younger students. It’s such an honor, “ Wolfgang said. 

The district band festival itself is an honor to be apart of, but also a challenge. Not only are students pushing themselves to be their best selves they also get to put on a show with instrumentalists they don’t typically play with. This can be challenging because these musicians are used to performing with their friends and at district band they are in new suroungings with different people.   

“At districts everybody is trying to push themselves to get to the next level. Because they are working hard before the festival the ensemble sounds really good. Because everyone comes prepared. It’s a higher quality than other festivals because it’s auditioned. So you have to work hard to get to that point. There are higher expectations,” said Wolfgang 

Of the twelve, a few musicians are first time attendees. 

“I think that, for me at least, there is a little bit less pressure, but at the same time there’s more pressure because you want to be able to do as much as you did last year. For me as a senior this is my last chance to do stuff and I already reached that goal (qualifying for State Band) so I’m grateful I got this experience last year,” said Wolfgang. 

“I feel like it’s easier to know what to expect…. Also seeing people that you’ve seen people last year and having connections already at districts is really cool,” said Zezza  

“This is my first time going to district band so I’ve never been with a group of people so talented before so I’m super excited to see that. I just think I’m most excited to see a bunch of talented musicians together,” said junior clarinetist Jack Dixon.  

“It’s cool because we only get to see these people maybe once a year and so getting to see them again is really neat. Because you bond a lot. I sat next to the same kid three times, at every single band festival so I got to know him really well,” said Wolfgang 

PMEA district band isn’t just about the music; it is a celebration of the hard work, skill and dedication that students put into play at the highest level they can. The Greater Latrobe auditorium doors open at 7:00 PM on January 13. Come and see the hard work that not only the twelve talented Greater Latrobe musicians put in but also the one hundred and thirteen other students from all around the district put in to put on an incredible concert.

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About the Contributor
Karlee Clark
Karlee Clark, Staff Writer
Karlee Clark, a Sophomore and a brand new member of the High Post staff. She joined staff to further her love of writing and also looks forward to the opportunities that come with being a staff member. Her main hobbies include music, reading, writing, and leadership. She is a member of the Greater Latrobe chamber choir, wind ensemble, treble ensemble, pep band, and drama club where she participates in the spring musicals every year, she shares her love of music and performing with the people she loves through things like, shows, concerts, and caberts. She is also a defensive specialist for the Greater Latrobe JV Volleyball team, she adores the team aspect and the inside jokes and fun times she shares with her team. Her main passion in life is leadership, she displays this through participation in the lighthouse leadership team where she collaborates with peers to make a difference in her school community. She was a teacher nominated member of the Future Ready Leaders Team, she has also been a student council representative since elementary school. This year she had been granted the opportunity to hold an officer position in student council as head manager of the Greater Latrobe Student Store.  She also loves to learn new things, she loves to read both fictional novels and nonfiction articles as much as she can in her little free time. But also furthers her knowledge of the environment as an active member of the Envirothon team. As active and busy she is in her school she is no stranger to her community and jumps on any opportunity to volunteer and make herself useful as a leader in her neighborhood. One of her favorite clubs at Greater Latrobe High School is the forensics team. Commonly known as Speech and Debate Karlee loves every aspect of what the forensics team does. As a freshman she competed all year with a persuasive essay that she held close to her heart and that meant alot to her, in mid march she qualified for the State competition and had an amazing time, she made many friends and built strong relationships with many people. This year she is switching to competing in the poetry category and is hopeful to make it just as far if not further in the State competition with her selected poetry arrangement.

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