IMEA Festival showcases South’s musically talented

IMEA Festival showcases South’s musically talented

Practicing for IMEA, Marc Turenne, Matt Grinde, Matt Baecklandt, Cassandra Huerta, Marissa Takaki and Erik Tomasic (left to right) prepare to represent GBS at the IMEA festival on Nov. 8 and 22.

Nick Moran, staff reporter

Every year, a select group of South students practice for a chance to take part in the Illinois Music Educators Association (IMEA) Festival on Nov. 8 and 22. A handful of South’s musicians, all dedicated to participate in the festival, try out to represent the school with grand performances throughout the month of November, filling the newly frigid air with the finest notes that students from the area have to offer.

IMEA is a non-profit organization consisting of music educators from across the state. The organization sponsors state wide activities to promote music. Known by many South students through their symphonic and jazz band festivals held in November, IMEA has a significant role in representing a high level of musical talent. Many students, such as Jack Kelly, a sophomore band student, recognizes IMEA by the difficult journey and honor to make it into the bands.

“IMEA is the district band and all of the best players from the districts and the state make it into the band,” Kelly said. “It’s a pretty cool title to have, to say you made it into IMEA.”

There are nine districts in which students are chosen to participate in the festival. Each district hosts their own District Festival in which students work with a guest conductor for a performance.

The difficulty of making it into the IMEA band is especially renowned in District 7, the region in which South and other high schools are placed. According to Aaron Wojcik, assistant band director, District 7 is one of the most competitive districts in Illinois.

Despite the difficulty, Jason Noh, a sophomore band student, said students will keep on trying to obtain an honored spot in the bands and better themselves.

“For people who strive to be the best, like people who are committed to band and other applied arts, like singing and string instruments, I think it means a lot for them because they strive to be better,” Noh said.

According to Wojcik, students prepare in numerous ways, ranging from individual practice and check-ins with directors. Much of the practice would be on music pieces, both technical and lyrical, all major and minor scales, as well as sight reading sheet music. Students who pass auditions perform and practice for music festivals hosted by IMEA.

The festivals are performed by musicians who were chosen through an audition process by playing for IMEA judges. Senior Marissa Takaki, a three-time member of IMEA, remembers practicing her bassoon sophomore year after making the symphonic band for the first time.

“My sophomore year, I was third chair [in the IMEA Festival band] and that was a lot of fun,” Takaki said. “You go on a Saturday from 8 in the morning until 5 or 6 and you have a few hours of rehearsal in the morning, then lunch, then another hour or two of rehearsal and then you have a concert.”

Wojcik says that after district festivals, students can further progress to all-state performances, based on a rating given to them during the district level concerts. Takaki and  a handful of other students across Illinois were selected to perform at the all-state level for the Illinois Music Education Conference, which is planned to take place in January of 2015.

Takaki was one of six students at South to try out and make an IMEA band. This year, Takaki for bassoon, junior Marc Turenne for clarinet and junior Cassandra Huerta for flute were placed in symphonic band; junior Matt Grinde for trumpet  and senior Matt Baeckelandt for saxophone were placed in jazz band; and Erik Tomasic was placed in both for trombone and tuba, according to Wojcik.

Tomasic was the only student from South to be accepted into both bands, playing tuba for symphonic band and trombone for jazz band.

“It sort of represents all of the hard work I put in because you’re being acknowledged as a really good player and among the best in this area,” Tomasic said. “It’s also really fun to play with other people who are equally as talented.”

According to Tomasic, it took three auditions until he managed to join IMEA his senior year for the first time. After making IMEA this year, Tomasic reflected on the nerve-racking auditions in years past, thinking that one wrong note could separate him from acceptance.

“I would say to not be as nervous as you think you should be because that just makes the situation worse and you’ll make more mistakes,” Tomasic said. “Be confident and prepare your piece as well.”

While looking back on IMEA, members have taken beneficial knowledge from the experience of performing with IMEA, especially seniors, like Takaki, who are in their final year of IMEA, and are looking forward to performing professionally in the future.

“Having an ensemble prepare concert-ready music in one day is nice because it’s like a different experience,” Takaki said. “It’s what you have to do professionally… and it’s always fun to learn things about yourself and the thing you’re playing.”