Biloxi band members work with world-renowned composer - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Biloxi band members work with world-renowned composer

Students say that having Maslanka there was the opportunity of a lifetime. (Photo source: WLOX News) Students say that having Maslanka there was the opportunity of a lifetime. (Photo source: WLOX News)
Maslanka's role was to help the students convey the emotion behind the notes. (Photo source: WLOX News) Maslanka's role was to help the students convey the emotion behind the notes. (Photo source: WLOX News)

The sounds of a symphony flowed through the Biloxi Civic Center Wednesday. The Biloxi High School Wind Ensemble has been rehearsing "Mother Earth" for weeks.

Only this time, the band was performing the music in front of the man who composed it.

"Even if people didn't say they were nervous, they felt a little nervous inside being that we're playing it for the composer and we've never done that before," said Biloxi High Junior Cecelia Prentiss.

The BHS students had a rare opportunity to rehearse with world-renowned composer, David Maslanka, who is spending the week in residency at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.

Maslanka has composed more than 150 pieces of music. His works have been performed by professional ensembles and college and high school bands all over the world. It was his first time working with a high school band in Mississippi.

"It's a great honor for me to be able to stand in front of these kids knowing they have prepared so diligently something I have produced," said Maslanka.

USM's director of bands arranged for the composer to work with Biloxi High School. Maslanka's role was to help the students convey the emotion behind the notes.

"It was kind of surreal, because you really get the artist's perspective on what we're playing, like why he wrote it, when he wrote it, what he was feeling," said Biloxi High Senior Margaret Lee. "It was incredible and we all couldn't believe we got the opportunity to do it."

Maslanka showed the students exercise techniques and shared some tips with the conductor.

"It was so exciting. Students in our area may not get that opportunity very often, based on where we are and to have someone like that come in. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity," said Biloxi Schools Band Director Travis Coakley.

The Biloxi High Wind Ensemble will perform the piece "Mother Earth" at a concert in December. While at USM, Maslanka will be working with band members and young composers.

"They sound terrific," said Maslanka. "We had a wonderful time for one-and-a-half hours of focused concentration. It's very fatiguing work. They're very brave and very good-natured to come along with me."

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