Music enriches our community in so many ways. It brings people from all different backgrounds together with a common love of rhythm and sound. With that goal in mind, middle schoolers from across North Thurston Public Schools will gather to produce music that combines talented band, orchestra and choir students from all five middle schools for the Middle School Honor Festival on February 29, 2020.

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“This year we wanted everyone involved,” explains Nisqually Middle School Band Director, Kimberly Brumbaugh. “In past events, we only had the band directors working together. After talking to directors from other schools, orchestra and choir was ready to get onboard as well. It takes a lot of collaboration amongst the directors, students and parents involved.”

To qualify to participate, students had to be among the highest achieving and most deserving in their class. “Interested students submitted an application to their teacher,” explains Aspire Middle School for the Performing Arts Choir Director, Stephanie Bivins. “Who in turn nominated students by scoring them on the basis of their musicianship, work ethic and behavior. These score nominations went on to a third-party adjudicator, who then ranked the students, and selected our singers based on a combination of voice part (important to get the proper balance of voices for the ensemble) and rank.”

Once picked, Brumbaugh worked with fellow directors to help build a complete band, orchestra and choir ensemble. Hand selecting each student to fill an important part in the music making process. “We wanted students to thrive amongst the best of the best in our district,” explains Brumbaugh. “It also gives them a chance to do something bigger than what is required within the classroom. It allows them to work toward becoming professional musicians. This festival opens the door to many music opportunities.”

NTPS Honor Festival
Band director Kimberly Brambaugh helps to organize all NTPS middle schools for the Honor Festival. Photo courtesy: Kimberly Brumbaugh

There are many moving parts that make this event come to life. “Directors from all over our district come together,” says Brumbaugh. “Even the directors at the high school level come in to work with these kids. It gives them an opportunity to begin molding their future programs by beginning to work with these students that will filter into their high schools. For me, I’m in the back watching all the other directors taking notes. There is always something to learn from the other directors that I enjoy. Along with the learning the students receive, it is second to none professional development for the directors, too!”

“I think this event has a bigger impact that initially meets the eye,” says Bivins. “Naturally, the students of our district will be positively impacted by their experience. The singers participating will be exposed to new methods of achieving musicianship and artistry by working with the entire choral voice faculty in the North Thurston Public Schools.

Honor Festival
Students at Nisqually created this year’s logo for the festival integrating band, orchestra, and choir. Photo courtesy: Kimberly Brumbaugh

Additionally, they will perform with honor band and orchestra on the final piece of the program, giving them a unique opportunity to collaborate with their peers in other disciplines of music. Participants will also be able to bring back the things they’ve learned to their home middle school programs. For our audience, there can be significant impact as well! Aside from the joy of watching young people do the things they are passionate about, there are many additional benefits. According to a 2016 study by researchers at Imperial College London, for the greater listening community (the audience), attending a live music concert reduces the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the body. Numerous other studies link listening to live music with enhanced emotion regulation, and increased general health and well-being.”

“This will be a celebration of the music that is being taught in NTPS,” says Brambaugh. “We want the community to celebrate. It’s a representation of the whole district. It represents the talented teachers, students and parents that are involved. It’s a community effort!”

This year’s festival takes place on Saturday, February 29, 2020 at Salish Middle School at 7:00 p.m.

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