56th annual honor band festival brings on a Brazilian beat

On the evening of Wednesday, Nov. 6, a trance of triumphant music from UMD’s Weber Music Hall spilled over into the Sports and Health Center. Those leaving the gym with ears buds in may not have noticed, but wondering with lobes open, I sought after the source of sound.

I stumbled into Weber where the stage was filled with a mix of musicians. I thought to myself, “this must be a community band.” (Not to toot my own horn, but I played in a community band back in high school along with my mother and grandmother. It was forced fun, to say the least.)

The seats were empty, but a man stood at the front door shooting video of the band on his iPad. Come to find out this is Mark Whitlock, Director of Bands and music professor at UMD.  He said the band is the Twin Ports Wind Orchestra, and they were practicing for the 56th Annual UMD High School Honor Band Festival.

"It's one of the longest running high school honor band festivals in the country," said Whitlock, who has been teaching at UMD for the past twenty years. “This year we’re studying Brazilian music.”

A bouncing conductor with the gracious arm actions leading the band was none other than Dario Sotelo, Director of the Brazilian National Wind Orchestra.

“He’s probably the most famous conductor in the whole continent of South America,” Whitlock said.

Basically, the weekend is a brief but abundant band camp, right in the middle of fall semester at UMD. It’s a time for learning while making connections and encouraging participation and passion within the performing arts.

Other festival attendants this year are Brazilian percussionist and educator, Rogério Boccato, the UMD Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Concert Band, the Twin Ports Wind Orchestra, as well as 230 high school students from all throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Whitlock said the community is invited to enjoy the music-filled weekend for free. Live music will be played all day on Friday, Nov. 8 with a concert at 7 p.m. and again on Saturday, Nov. 9 with a final concert at 4 p.m. All music will be performed at UMD’s Weber Music Hall and the Marshall Performing Arts Center.

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