It was music to their ears when five St. Bernard Parish Public School students were recently selected to the Louisiana Music Educators Association District Honor Band. The students include four from Chalmette High School: Donald McKinnies, tuba; Grace Abba, bass clarinet; Gary Lindsey, percussion; Nathaniel Gonzalez, percussion; and Autumn Blackmore, clarinet; and one from Trist Middle School: Daniel Marchiafava, clarinet.
The music students are under the instruction of Talented Music Director Jason Rusk and Band Directors Kaleb Lambert at CHS and Kenan Jabr at TMS.
Rusk said the process for these talented musicians to audition for such an honor is rigorous.
“Hundreds of students from all schools, public and private, audition for the LMEA District 6 Honor Band each year,” he said. “District 6 includes all schools in St. Bernard, Jefferson, New Orleans, and Belle Chasse; however, only a select few pass the audition and get accepted into band.”
Rusk added that Chalmette High has continuously placed band students in the district and state honor band, an accolade that defines the success of the music program in St. Bernard Parish schools.
“Each section of the band has a limited number of chairs open, so it is always very stiff competition to get accepted,” he said. “The students with the highest score are picked to perform with the band, so you can sort of say this is the best of the best!”
As part of their selection to the honor band, the students performed at Tulane University’s Dixon Concert Hall earlier this month. Rusk said the practice time is limited, but their talent makes up for that.
“The students only have two rehearsals with the guest conductor and a concert on the third day,” Rusk said. “The students don’t get a lot of time to practice but when you have all the top players together in one band, they are able to do some pretty amazing things.”
Rusk said he is extremely proud of the students who were selected this year, but also of all of his music students who auditioned.
“Our students and all of the students who auditioned for such a high honor should be commended,” Rusk said. “It’s a very difficult audition process to go through with all the preparation and finally to have to do it all before a judge.”