School Spotlight: Roseville Area High School Symphonic Band

by Claire Philpott, Minnesota Public Radio
May 13, 2014
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St. Paul, Minn. — School Spotlight highlights outstanding Minnesota school- and student-music ensembles during the academic year. Through this feature, Classical MPR hopes to expose listeners to the great music being made by young musicians across the state, and to generate more support for music education.

The audio featured is of the Roseville Area High School Symphonic Band performing at the 2014 Minnesota Music Educators Association (MMEA) mid-winter clinic under the baton of Matt Dehnel.

  • 7:15 a.m. — Gustav Holst: First Suite in E-flat: Chaconne
  • 7:15 p.m. — Gustav Holst: First Suite in E-flat: March

This year, the Roseville Area High School (RAHS) Symphonic Band tackled one of the most recognizable and perhaps even one of the most famous pieces in the history of band music. They prepared Holst's First Suite in E-flat from the stately Chaconne to the incredibly catchy and bouncy March, with the help of such illustrious guest conductors as Dr. Timothy Mahr, Dr. Jack Stamp, and Artistic Director of Minnesota Youth Symphonies and Minnesota Orchestra principal trumpet, Manny Laureano, before performing at the 2014 MMEA mid-winter clinic in February.

Founded in 1986 in conjunction with the RAHS, the Symphonic Band meets every day and is made up of 50 seniors, 8 juniors and 1 sophomore. In the RAHS band program, students who stay in band for all four years of high school are automatically placed in the Symphonic Band, with non-seniors auditioning to fill any places still needed. This approach is apparently not very common among music ensemble programs.

Director Matt Dehnel believes that the emotional connection formed when playing music has affected his students in a positive way that no other activity or discipline could offer. Here's how Dehnel puts it:

"I am always careful not to say this is the best experience, but it is unlike any other. On multiple occasions, I've had typically stoic students become suddenly overwhelmed with emotions when talking to me after a concert. Often these students (most recently one of my big, tough football players!) are surprised that their emotions take over. With all the talk about academic benefits of music (and there are many), I am overjoyed when music strikes a student where it really matters — in their soul."

If you are interested in hearing more of this ensemble, they will have their senior send-off on May 28, at 7:30 p.m., at the Roseville Area High School. This is the final concert that most of these students will play together in high school. Repertoire performed will include John Mackey's Aurora Awakes, Brian Balmages' Silence Overwhelmed and the 'Finale' from James Barnes' Symphony No. 3. The RAHS Symphony Orchestra and Cantus Certus will also be performing.


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