Smith Academy bands win top honors at Pennsylvania music festival
HATFIELD — Smith Academy’s 88-member concert band and the 25-member jazz band walked away with first place and best overall ratings from the Music in the Parks festival in Hershey, Pa.
The bands received superior rating for their performance in front of a panel of judges, and both groups ranked first place among the performing groups in the Class A Division (schools with less than 750 students) at the festival, held May 17 and 18.
Each of the Smith Academy bands also received Best Overall trophies, awarded to the group scoring the highest among all concert and jazz bands at the festival, regardless of division.
“It was very exciting,” said band director Ken Longstreeth. “We worked very hard preparing for this and I couldn’t be more pleased.”
The two-day Music in the Parks festival is open to student choral, orchestral and band ensembles held annually at different venues across the United States.
This year, approximately 40 school bands participated, with musicians coming from Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia.
Longstreeth said it was the first time the Smith Academy bands had performed at the festival.
“It had a very upbeat and positive tone, which was nice,” Longstreeth said. “When they gave out the awards, they told the 4,000 students there that they were all winners because they played music and they loved it enough to be there during a school break.”
The bands performed three pieces at the festival: a traditional Irish tune called “Down by the Sally Gardens,” a composition written for the Texas All Star High School Band called “Ruxllux Aurumque” and “Swashbuckler” by John Roberts.
The festival was the culmination of a spring band trip, which included a trip to New York City to see “Wicked” on Broadway, a tour of Amish country in Lancaster, Pa., and a tour of the battlefields in Gettysburg, Pa.
Smith Academy Principal Andrew Berrios called the bands showing at the festival amazing. “This is quite an accomplishment, especially as many of the bands they were up against were much larger,” he said.
And he noted that students also delivered winning performances while they were on the road.
“The chaperones told me that people in restaurants, and at the places the band members toured, said the student’s behavior and manners were excellent,” Berrios said. “That is always nice to hear.”