YATESVILLE — Corey Kinney comes from a long line of trumpeters. That fact made it easier for the Sweet Valley resident to choose an instrument to play when he attended elementary school.
“My whole family plays the trumpet,” said the 18-year-old.
Now Kinney is one of 153 students performing in the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association District 9 Band Festival, hosted this year by Pittston Area High School.
The three-day festival is a chance for some of the best student musicians from Lackawanna, Luzerne, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties to audition for regionals and practice together, culminating in a concert Friday at the school.
For Kinney, practicing with and meeting fellow musicians from across five counties is a unique experience.
“Not every school gets to practice will a full band,” he said. “When you only have 40 members, you don’t get the same sound and emotion.”
And this isn’t Kinney’s first appearance at districts, either. He’s been groomed to get this far in his musical career, practicing for hours daily and working on solos since he became involved with band at Lake-Lehman.
“The first time (I played in district band) it was incredible,” he said.
The festival, which began on Wednesday, started with auditions for the next step in the PMEA process, regional band. Dale White, of Hunlock Creek, said he was hopeful after the audition, but didn’t make the cut.
“I thought I did well,” he said. “… It was my first time here, so it was a little bit (stressful).”
The students auditioned for districts in November and were given the music for the end-of-festival concert in advance. On Thursday the students practiced for 12 solid hours together, with short breaks, lunch and dinner in between, to work on being a more cohesive band.
Clarinetist Laura Sachaczenski, of Falls, said the long day can take a toll on the body.
“It’s definitely very tiring, on the mouth and mentally,” said the 16-year-old Wyoming Area student. “You’re sitting in the same setting. It affects your back. It’s hard on the body.”
Despite this, Sachaczenski said it’s “totally worth it.”
“You get all these different schools together, people who barely know each other, playing this awesome and challenging music,” she said.
Adam Burdett, band director at Pittston Area and host director of the PMEA festival this year, said the music planned for the final concert is “something for everyone” and includes a range of emotions.
“There’s a piece called ‘Mock Morris’ that has a bouncy, fun energy,” he said. “Then we have ‘Elegy for a Young American,’ which was written after the JFK assassination, so it’s deep, a bit saddening.”
For some of the students, it wasn’t just about the challenge of new playing techniques or adding to their musical resumes. The social aspect of district band appealed to Scott Alexander, a 15-year-old Dallas High School student from Wyoming.
“My mom told me to make new friends and see where they go,” said the clarinetist, who admitted he had made a lot of new contacts in two days. “I can’t wait to perform for so many people.”
The concert, open to the public, will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29 at the Pittston Area High School Auditorium, 5 Stout St., Yatesville. Tickets cost $5 for adults and $3 for students and senior citizens. The concert will be conducted by Andrew Yozwiak, a Wyoming Valley native and director of bands at West Chester University.