SOLOS AND ENSEMBLES: The Way To Better Groups

NOTES DA CAPO - By John Puffenbarger
February 1991

Each February young people throughout West Virginia participate in Solo and Ensemble Festivals. The number of participants has been increasing because students and their teachers realize the benefits of such performance. No other activity does as much to develop the fundamentals of good performance such as balance, rhythm, intonation, and style.

Individual schools have promoted solos and ensembles for manv years. Northern panhandle schools such as Weir and Moundsville encouraged practically all students in the band program to play a solo or join an ensemble. Bandmasters such as Loren Mercer and Dale Parks knew that musicianship learned in small aroups would strengthen the school band. Now Chester Junior High and Bridge Street Junior High (Wheeling) follow this plan.

The West Virginia Bandmasters Association initiated a program of Solo and Ensemble Festivals in 1962-63. with regions somewhat patterned after the old region band festival format. Adjudicators at the region festivals recommended students who received a "I" rating to attend one of the two area festivals Area judges in both the woodwind and brass-percussion categories would select two finalists who would then perform on a recital at the WVMEA Conference.

One of the most important actions to come from the 1967 Parkersburg WVMEA Conference was revision of the Solo and Ensemble format. The festivals would no longer be a Bandmasters Association project, but would be expanded to include the entire WVMEA and would be under WVMEA administration.

The WVMEA Solo and Ensemble regions corresponded to the State Department of Education regions. A state coordinator was selected to coordinate the regional festivals and to serve on the WVMEA Executive Board. Region coordinators were appointed to obtain a suitable festival site and to administer festival details. After the 1967 WVMEA Conference, WVMEA President Ron Wood asked John Puffenbarger to serve as the first state coordinator. Other coordinators have been Saul Fisher, Michael Berry, Harry Faulk, James Guarriero, and presently Fred Meyer. A listening committee (the state NIMAC committee) was appointed to select ten events to appear at the WVMEA Conference.

This new format was very successful. Solo and Ensemble Recitals at the 1968 and 1969 Conferences were expanded to include a pianist. vocalist, classical Guitarist, and several wind instrumentalists.

Several counties continue to hold their own festivals. Jack Basil oraanized a festival in Randolph County a few years ago. Recently Robert Dunkerley has served as the Randolph Countv Solo and Ensemble festival chair. Students in all phases of music participate in the one-day Randolph County event. The adjudicators select two finalists who then perform on the local television station. Last year Brian Flanagan served as chair of the First Tucker County Solo and Ensemble Festival.

(Activities of today become the history of tomorrow. Please collect current or past items of West Virginia music history--including photos--and keep them on file at your school. And send copies to the WVMEA historian so they can be placed in the archives at Colson Hall, WVU.)