Ten GAC High School students traveled to Athens over the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend to participate in the prestigious JanFest, one of the oldest and largest high school band festivals in the Southeast. Hosted by the Hugh Hodgson School of Music at the University of Georgia, JanFest welcomed 2,000 students onto campus for the 70th Annual January High School Band Festival. This four-day event is open only to invited musicians who represent the most accomplished among their high schools across the state of Georgia and the Southeast.
“Every student selected has worked very hard to get here. It’s fun to be challenged and to be pushed in a new way. It’s an honor and a great opportunity to grow as a musician,” said GAC’s Ben McCarty, who plays the French horn.
The weekend gives participants a chance to improve and refine their own craft and then take what they’ve learned back to their schools to help others. Students who participate immerse themselves into the college experience and get a peek into what it’s like to major in music in college. Another perk is having the chance to perform in the UGA music concert hall, which is known for its beauty and top-notch acoustics.
Nominated by their band directors, these students arrive in Athens and are surrounded by talented musicians like themselves. After auditions, they’re placed in performance ensembles and conducted by experts in the field. Rehearsals take place all weekend, and the festival culminates with a final performance on Sunday. Attendees also enjoy featured performances by guest high school bands and UGA student ensembles.
GAC Bands assistant Mr. Donnell Francis accompanied the students to JanFest. Mr. Francis is a UGA graduate himself who plays the saxophone and French horn and has been immersed in music for 24 years. “It was an awesome weekend. The highlight of JanFest was the all-female, aged 13-18 wind orchestra from Hiroshima, Japan. They put on a performance the first night that was phenomenal. They did 4 mastery works. They did a pop tunes and encore performance with dancing, singing, and body percussion, too. It was so cool. For the kids, they said that to see that level of discipline was really inspiring to them”, he said.
“When you’re at school, band is just one class of the day. But then you go to JanFest, and you have four days where all you do is rehearse and meet people in your section. You have the opportunity to listen to other people play and play yourself with a group of kids who are all passionate about music,” said Thien-An Maynard, who plays bass clarinet for GAC.
GAC Students Selected for 2020 JanFest:
Kate Cole, flute
Miles Collins, trumpet
John Cong, bassoon
Ivy Lee, flute
Thien-An Maynard, bass clarinet
Ben McCarty, French horn
Talia Miller, saxophone
William Pleasant: baritone saxophone
Navya Sarikonda, flute
Tim Xiu, oboe