Austin’s seniors sound off

Published 1:05 pm Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The high school’s three orchestras held their Senior Recognition Concert Monday night, followed by the return of Band Blast Tuesday night. The two nights of music, each held at the school’s Knowlton Auditorium, brought the contributions of the school’s seniors to the forefront.

Orchestra spans the genres

For their final performances of the year, the Prep Orchestra, Concert Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra gathered together on the stage to play “Great Gate of Kiev.” The evening’s finale combined all three orchestras, totaling more than 100 students on stage.

Earlier in the evening, Director of Orchestras Gene Schott read each of the 14 orchestra seniors’ names, and included where he or she was going to college and what his or her predicted major may be.

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“Right before the last piece, we recognized the seniors,” Schott said, adding it was important to commend these students because many had been committed to performing since they first learned to play their instruments them in fifth grade.

The concert contained a number of recognizable selections, from the thundering “Overture to 1812” to the theme from the popular video game series “Halo.” Rock group Kansas’ “Carry On My Wayward Son” was part of the program also.

“We definitely play the classical standards, but there’s also a lot of wonderful new music that’s come out recently,” Schott said.

As a member of a rock band and an enthusiast of modern music, Schott said he likes to include a wide span of genres in the school’s orchestra concerts.

Band Blast returns to Austin

The return of Band Blast brought a high turnout; Director of Bands Brad Mariska estimates more than 1000 people attended.

“It was great,” he said. “A huge success.”

Mariska said the concert included a variety of pieces, both traditional and contemporary. Everything from broadway music to polka was included.

“We wanted to put on a show that not only challenged the students musically, but would also be entertaining,” he said.

The concert featured performances from sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade bands and then moved on to the high school ensembles. The finale was a combined band performance of “God Bless America.”

Throughout the concert, smaller groups like the high school’s mariachi band and jazz band were featured. Toward the end, the bands’ seniors were recognized and the school song, “Austin High Gives Hail to Thee,” was directed by former director Conrad Muzik.

Band Blast was started in 1971. For a while, the event was a fixture on Austinites’ calendars; however, as time marched on the concert lost its steam.

“It never really went away,” Mariska said. “It just sort of lost its visibility.”

The reemergence of interest came when Mariska, in his first year in Austin, found some old posters for the event early on in the school year and decided to bring it back.

For next year, Mariska plans to keep the format the same, though sixth graders will no longer be a part as they instead take part in concerts put on by I.J. Holton Intermediate School.

—Eric Johnson contributed to this report.