800 musicians come together for festival

Professionals and students jam and perform in a variety of musical styles

Posted: Wednesday, April 26, 2000

It's the other Alaska Music Festival.

The 600 musicians arriving in Juneau today will be carrying brass and wind instruments instead of guitars and mandolins, and violins instead of fiddles.

But like the Alaska Folk Festival, the players and singers at the Southeast Alaska Music Festival will spend hours performing on stage, jamming and learning from professionals.

The visitors will join about 200 local musicians. The festival involves every Southeast school that has a band, choir or music group, said Juneau-Douglas High School music teacher Ken Guiher. Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka take turns hosting the annual event, which includes housing visiting students.

``You get the full spectrum of what is happening musically in Southeast Alaska,'' said Susan Horst, who conducts the JDHS treble choir.

This year's festival opens with a free concert by the Juneau Brass and Bones North at 7 p.m. tonight at the JDHS auditorium.

The festival's regular evening performances run from 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at the JDHS auditorium. Each group showcases a few numbers and the pace is fast moving, with stage crews setting up groups as quickly as possible.

Evening concerts feature choirs, soloists and large and small groups performing a variety of styles. Admission is $4 for adults and $3 for kids.

Guest specialists teach workshops and evaluate the players' performances during the day. Judges select outstanding soloists and groups for command performances for the evening concerts. The larger groups and choirs are also judged during the evening concerts.

``Usually it's two large groups, then a command performance,'' Horst said. ``It's a nice variety.''

Jazz ensembles and singers will perform Friday and Saturday mornings in the auditorium, and those performances are free and open to the public.

Sitka High School was expected to host the festival this year, but a remodeling project ousted the event and JDHS stepped in, said Sitka High music teacher Brad Howey. Howey coordinated the festival; Juneau is hosting the event and will host it again next year.

``Juneau's definitely doing their extra share, and Southeast music people appreciate it,'' Howey said.

Paul Hill, a Juneau musician in the trombone quartet Bones North, said the group offered to play for free for tonight's opening night welcome concert. They want to encourage young trombonists, he said. They also want to reinforce young musicians' desire to keep playing after graduation, whether it's semi-professionally or for pleasure.

``We want young musicians to know there's musical life after high school. In a community like this there are opportunities after high school. Don't sell the horn,'' he said.

Hill and his band mates in Bones North are presenting a workshop on that topic Friday afternoon at the festival.

Most of the workshops will be taught by the four clinicians, all professional musicians and educators, who also evaluate the students' performances. Howey said the four judges all have very broad musical backgrounds as well as specialties.

The students will receive tapes of their performances, with tips and comments by the judges.

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