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Festival attracts famous composer

The Parthenon

Published: Sunday, February 24, 2013

Updated: Sunday, February 24, 2013 19:02

More than 300 high school students attended Marshall University’s 12th annual high school band festival in Smith Music Hall where famous composer Robert Smith conducted the top band.

Steve Barnett, the Director of Bands, has been in charge of arranging and coordinating the festival for the past ten years.

“It’s a pretty big deal for high school kids to come to a college campus, ” Barnett said. “And for us it is one of our most important recruiting efforts. I feel that it really helps promote music education in the tri-state area and region.”

The festival started Thursday at 4 p.m. with the students auditioning in front of the music faculty in order for them to be placed in one of the three bands. Smith conducted the John Marshall Band, the top band at the festival, Mark Hardman conducted the Thundering Herd Band and Doug McCullough conducted the Marco’s Marauders Band.

“Music is the most powerful of all the languages,” Smith said. “And because of it, I can make meaningful relationships with these students even though we are not of the same generation. Without music, I would just be some old guy talking to them and they wouldn’t even give me the time of day.”

Smith has taught for 36 years, with over 600 publications in print and has conducted bands on almost every continent. He currently teaches and coordinates the music industry program at Troy University in Troy, Ala.

The students rehearsed Friday and Saturday in order to prepare for each band’s concert Saturday. The Marco’s Marauders Band preformed first at 4 p.m. and was followed by the Thundering Herd Band at 4:45 p.m. and the John Marshall Band at 5:30 p.m.

“The concert is the most enjoyable part for me,” Hardman said. “I love to perform and I love the performance. It’s where I tend to do my best.

Hardman has been the Director of Bands at George Washington High School in Charleston, W.Va. for 16 years. He says he finds himself very lucky to do what he loves to do for a living, and he would do more festivals but he devotes most of his time to his own group.

Like Hardman, McCullough said his favorite part of the weekend is the concert because the students are able to show their parents how hard they have worked in such a short amount of time.

“I felt honored when Barnett ask me to conduct one of the bands at the festival,” McCullough said. “Several of these students come from really small band programs and being able to play in a band of this size is a once in a life time experience for them.”

McCullough has taught for 26 years at Beavercreek High School in Dayton, Ohio.

Seniors in the bands where also given the opportunity Friday to audition for a place in the music department and in the marching band.

Josephine Mendez can be contacted at

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