It's hard to believe it's been a year since Sitka opened their community, hearts and homes to over 450 talented musicians from cities and villages all over Southeast for the Southeast Alaska High School Music Fest. Now it's that time again, and this year Juneau takes its turn as host city.
For three days, from April 22 through 24, more than 650 performers will descend on our community, each of whom has worked hard to win the honor of being able to perform at this event. From early in the morning to late at night, the sounds and tones of the music festival will be heard coming from the doors and windows of JDHS.
Last year, in Sitka, I was able to watch the event unfold from my position as a chaperone, a role I entered with reluctance. As a parent of two teenagers, the thought of signing up to shepherd 450 high-schoolers seemed completely reckless. There must have been a secret ballot or nominating process, because somehow my name was soon identified with 30 teenagers that I was accountable for. After making sure my health and life insurance policies were up to date, with a high-risk clause for this type of activity, I agreed, and soon embarked on one of the most amazing trips I've ever experienced, one that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
As we prepared to make the trip to Sitka, gathering in airports, ferry terminals and loading docks, I began to observe something completely unexpected. Whether it was 12 p.m. or 12 a.m., these kids would bring out their instruments, books and homework, taking advantage of a few minutes here or there as time allowed. In order to keep up with their studies and prepare for the upcoming competitive performances, not a minute was wasted. My perception of the group began to subtly change as I witnessed young people working just as hard as I would for any important event, let alone one delivered at a "master" level.
Arriving in Sitka was a warm and wonderful experience. The community's dedication to supporting musical talent in our region was very apparent. During the day, adjudicators and musical educators, both local and from across the country, fine-tuned the student's presentations and hosted workshops, and at night student performances were held in Sitka's new world-class auditorium.
As I sat in my assigned seat the first evening, I had no idea what was about to occur. I should have gotten a clue when the auditorium quickly filled, with folks turned away at the door. As each of the groups began to perform in their elegant gowns, tuxedos and formal attire, I quickly realized that I was no longer a chaperone, but a witness to an amazing event. Each performance was executed with the satisfaction that only comes with pouring your heart and soul into something and delivering the best you possibly can. Whether it was jazz, classical or contemporary music, wind, brass, string or percussion instruments, whether it was six or 60 performers, each was powerful and not to be missed.
This week, Juneau residents will have that same opportunity to watch our young musicians in action. Our community will provide food, housing and a warm environment so that each performer can deliver their very best. Daily smaller events will be followed by full-stage evening performances, including three command presentations that will be selected each day of the Music Fest that you won't want to miss.
None of this would be possible without the hard work of each student, the music teachers, parents and the tireless support of the Band Boosters organization who always look for members to assist even in small ways.
With a helping hand, a plate of food brought to the school, or just a smile, you can join in the effort by welcoming each student, from Haines to Hoonah, Ketchikan to Craig, or our own Juneau student musicians, all of whom truly define the meaning of "fine art."