By Parth Upadhyaya
The UNC Department of Music is taking a new approach this year to recruit high school students for its concert bands.
Arris Golden, Assistant Director of University Bands and conductor of the Symphony Band, has been instrumental in the effort to reach out to North Carolina high school bands. Several are scheduled to perform collaborative concerts and attend clinics on campus.
Conducted by Andy Carter, the Orange High School Band will perform with the UNC Symphony Band on December 4 in an American music-themed concert. Northwood conductor Brett Cox will lead his band with the UNC Symphony Band in a February concert. Finally, West Forsyth conductors Patricia Ball and Phil Wingfield will direct their band with the UNC Wind Ensemble in April.
In addition to the concerts, Golden will lead clinics on campus with the bands from East Wake and Eastern Randolph.
These collaborations not only introduce UNC and the Department of Music to many high school band students, but they also allow the department to give back to cherished alumni of the program, such as Ball (B.M. ’94) and Cox (B.M. ’14).
“It’s very exciting and really an honor that they trust me and my students as much as they do to come put on a concert with a college band,” Cox said.
During his time in Chapel Hill, Cox was a member of the Symphony Band, Wind Ensemble, and a trombone quartet.
“You make all these relationships and then you leave campus, and you’re not really sure who’s still thinking of you,” Cox said. “To know that they’re keeping up with me and what Northwood bands are doing just touched my heart.”
Golden feels that bringing UNC alumni who are teaching in the public schools back to campus with their students will reinforce relationships that, in time, will support the continued growth of the UNC Bands program and the Department of Music.
“For our alums to actually come back and perform as conductors in the space where they used to sit and play as players is a neat all-around concept and I think we’ll see dividends from that within the overall program,” Golden said.
UNC Bands holds a similar high school outreach initiative each football season through the Marching Tar Heels Honor Band Day. The event allows high school marching band students to spend an entire day with the Marching Tar Heels, rehearsing and performing side-by-side with them during a football game.
The program has proved to be an effective recruiting tool, and there are many current UNC students who attended the honor day in high school.
“[Honor Band Day] definitely reinforced my decision to stay in band,” said UNC sophomore Dylan Ervin. “I kind of already knew it, but [the event] also gave me more insight to how cool of a place this is. Everyone in band was just nice and friendly.”
Fellow UNC sophomore Gabe Luna also attended an Honor Band Day and said the event was pivotal in his decision to attend Carolina.
“As a junior [in high school], I had no clue what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go,” Luna said. “Then I saw what UNC had to offer and I noticed I fit in, and that’s what I needed.”
Golden hopes the collaborative concerts and clinics will have a similar impact on high school students as the marching band honor day, giving area high school students the opportunity to observe the UNC concert bands in rehearsal and performance.
“It’s never too early to bring a kid on a college campus,” Golden said. “Especially if they are already interested in the school. You just start building relationships to get them to be really convinced that ‘This is where I want to go. This is where I want to be.'”
The collaboration’s benefit to UNC Bands is evident, however Cox also wants his students to take full advantage of the opportunity.
“I just want my students to get to listen to those that are just above them,” Cox said. “They’re going to be college students in anywhere from one to four years. For them to know that it’s attainable for them to try out for these kind of groups and get to continue to play, that is one thing I want them to get out of [the concert].”
Although this is the first time Northwood will perform alongside a UNC band, several music professors have worked with Northwood in the past, including Jeff Fuchs, Evan Feldman, and Michael Kris.
UNC Bands hopes this outreach initiative will continue to strengthen pre-existing relationships, such as the one with Cox and Northwood, and establish new ones across the state.