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John Marshall High School Steel Band Ensemble’s Success Story

Photos provided Kaile Filben, Madi Blake, from front left, Sarah Fitzpatrick and Leah Reuschel, back, warm up at the Midwest Clinic.

GLEN DALE — John Marshall High School students took a recent opportunity to pursue a chance at success — and they ended up getting invited to join music’s greats in Chicago at the Midwest Clinic, International Band and Orchestra Conference.

Band director Tracey Filben said the high school’s band was the only steel band invited to the clinic, which drew a crowd of over 19,000 people.

“Chicago was amazing, as we all knew it would be,” Filben said. “It’s a small world when it comes to things like this.”

Filben said she met with numerous other directors from a variety of levels of performance.

“There were female directors who came up and commented on how many females we had in the group. … There were a lot of positive affirmations on including so many girls in the ensemble. Not everybody is used to that.”

Calling the Chicago trip “a major high point,” Filben said the band will now need to take a year before it can be considered for invitation to appear before the West Virginia Music Educators Association, which was what prompted the submission for consideration to the Midwest Conference.

“Going forward, we’re taking a little breather right now. We’re hosting a steel drum festival here at JMHS … concerts, community performances, things like that.”

“Moving forward, we’ll be eligible if we want to enter again, for the state level,” she said. “For Chicago, I have to decide if we want to submit again. If we submit again, I would only go if we were selected for the main stage concert.”

The band performed near the exhibits for a total of three hours, meaning many participants and attendees were able to pass by and watch their performance.

Aside from the clinic itself, Filben said the students were able to participate in numerous activities around town, from the Adler Planetarium to Navy Pier, which for most students was a unique experience.

“I wasn’t so much as nervous, but I was nervous to perform in a completely new environment,” student Madi Blake said. “They don’t know anything about JMHS. Here, people come to the concerts every year. … I would confidently say that at least half of the people there came and saw us — composers, other ensembles, teachers. That brought a different energy.”

“Our hard work paid off. We were showing an unfamiliar crowd what John Marshall is, and I think we represented that well.”

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