The members of the Faubion Middle School Symphonic I Band will be packing their warmest clothes and bracing for a week of true winter this December.
The group of young musicians has been selected to perform in Chicago, December 19-22, at what is considered by many to be the most prestigious band and orchestra education conference in the world -- the Midwest Clinic.
The Faubion band is one of only three middle school bands from across the globe chosen to perform.
Ray E. Carter, president of the Midwest Clinic said, “Directors at every level, throughout not just the United States, but the world...aspire to have a group perform at the Midwest Clinic because it’s held in such high esteem in the professional world around the globe.”
In March, Faubion Band Director Brian Beck submitted a recording of his students playing two pieces. Two weeks later, Beck received the coveted call from the Midwest Clinic Board of Directors congratulating him and the band.
The significance is certainly not lost on Beck’s students.
“It is such a big honor for me and for our band,” said eighth-grade oboe player Elizabeth Phillips. “I consider it a huge personal accomplishment.”
The band’s performance at the Midwest Clinic will serve two purposes: to showcase their talent and to premiere new musical pieces.
Beck said that he worked with various publishers to decide which songs his band will play. “We’re a Performing Group, that’s the official title -- Midwest Performing Group.”
Their performance gives other directors the opportunity to not only enjoy outstanding musicianship but also to discover new music offerings that they can take back to their own bands.
Preparing for the conference will be a major accomplishment in its own right. Beck said that whereas most middle school bands generally learn three pieces between August and December, the Faubion Symphonic I Band will learn and perform nine songs that range in difficulty from beginner level to complex pieces usually performed by high school bands.
Seventh-grade trumpet player Logan Smith understands the work that lies ahead: “We’re going to have to train hard because it’s a privilege to go to Chicago Midwest,” he said. “We’re going to have to play well.”
Beck, a published composer, wrote two of the nine pieces that his band will play, one of them a collaboration with his students. “These kids always ask me to write music for them,” Beck said.
“[Last December] they said, ‘Mr. Beck, why don’t you write us a song for the Spring Concert?’ and I said, ‘How about even better...how about you write the song?’”
He taught them how to compose a theme, and his students dove in whole-heartedly.
Beck added harmony and built music around the melodies his students brought him, and as he moved through the composing process, he discovered that his students had created something more than expected.
“I thought this [piece] was going to be a two-minute work, something simple. But, so many kids wrote such good themes that I had to explode it into a four-movement work where each movement is about three minutes long,” he said. “We premiered it at our Spring Concert, and we’re going to premiere it in Chicago.”
Beck left it up to the students to come up with a name. Their choice? Psychropezia! A word that is apparently defined only be the music it represents. “They liked the word, so that’s what they named it,” said Beck with a smile. And, yes, the exclamation mark is officially part of the name.
Performing at the Midwest Clinic is an accomplishment that few can claim, something that will stay with these kids for the rest of their lives.
“I did stress, when we found out, that one of the best things about being acknowledged in something this level is not the plaque, not the CD recording, not the performance itself, not the accolades -- but the feeling you have of knowing that no one can take away the memories that you’re going to create,” said Beck.
“This will be a memory that they’ll get to keep forever, and no one can say it didn’t happen. No one can say it was a fluke. They don’t have to justify it. It happened. We were chosen.”
So, the Faubion Middle School Symphonic I Band will take the stage before an international audience at one of the world’s most esteemed music conferences and play a song they helped to compose. In Chicago. In December.
About the author: Shane Mauldin is a communications specialist for the McKinney school district.