The Chosen Ones

North Gwinnett Middle School Percussion Ensemble invited to perform at the 24th Annual Music for All National Festival in Indianapolis, Indiana

BY: Rachel Fasig

When North Gwinnett Middle School Band Director, Travis Downs, received a personal letter from Music for All, one of the most prestigious and influential organizations in Music Education, he knew something big was about to happen.

Photo by Mini Chatoth 8

North Gwinnett Middle Student playing the xylophone.

North Gwinnett Middle is one of two middle school percussion ensembles in the nation that has been invited to perform at the 24th Annual Music for All National Festival in Indianapolis, Indiana, set to take place March 12th –14th, 2015. The letter stated, “Based on the recommendation of our distinguished panel of evaluators, who are some of the most respected music educators in the country, we are pleased to extend this acceptance and esteemed recognition to your outstanding ensemble.” This is a great honor and “once-in-a- lifetime opportunity for them,” Downs said of the eighteen 7th and 8th grade students who comprise the ensemble.

The students will perform a 40-minute concert under the evaluation of renowned music educators and professors from across the county. They will also have the unique opportunity to participate in master music classes and special events throughout the weekend.

Chase Harrington, 8th grade, shares what most of his fellow ensemble members are feeling: excited, nervous and honored all at once. The North Gwinnett Middle Percussion Ensemble is an advanced group that’s hand- selected through an audition process. When asked about plans to play in high school, college and beyond, Harrington responded, “Absolutely! I love to play music. It is my favorite thing to do in my spare time!”

Photo by Mini Chatoth 3

Travis Downs helps prepare his students for their concert.

However, they don’t have much spare time with after- school practices on Monday and Wednesday, as well as several Saturday rehearsals. “We have a lot of music to learn,” said Downs. They will play a “Preview Concert” at North Gwinnett Middle School before traveling to Indianapolis, and are in the process of locating a local concert hall to perform an additional performance (date and time TBD).

Downs, who is in his second year at North Gwinnett Middle, has a vast and impressive resumé , including: a Master’s Degree in Percussion, Percussion Arranger and Instructor of the UGA Redcoat Band, Conductor of the LSU Basketball Bengal Brass Pep Band, staff and member of several World Class Drum Corps International Groups, and an expansive acquirement of awards – both as a performer and director. Of the North Gwinnett Middle Percussion Ensemble, he says, “These students are amazing! I’m very proud of their work ethic and excitement level! It’s not just about the performance, but the journey to get there…all of their hard work, practice, dedication and teamwork.”

This is the first time that the percussion ensemble will travel out of state for a performance, and additional funding is needed. They are currently looking for sponsors and/or donations to support this amazing opportunity. Please email travis_downs@gwinnett.k12.ga.us, to learn more.

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