andrew hunter dshs band.jpg

Denham Springs High School band director Andrew Hunter leads the band during a recent performance. Hunter is preparing members of the band for an upcoming performance at Carnegie Hall.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

DENHAM SPRINGS — Musicians in Denham Springs High School’s wind ensemble are eagerly awaiting what their director, Andrew Hunter, termed the “musical experience of their young lives.”

The band's wind ensemble will perform in February at world famous Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Hunter said all 55 members of the wind ensemble, along with about 30 parents, will be making the trip.

“This should be a wonderful, culturally enriching trip for our students," Hunter said. "This is something very special, and we are proud of the fact that we are one of four high school bands and one college band asked to be part of the Baldwin Wallace Conservation Wind Ensemble Invitation.”

Baldwin Wallace is a prestigious music conservatory in Cleveland. Baldwin Wallace hosts the wind ensemble at Carnegie Hall each year. Hunter said the Denham Springs High ensemble was recommended for the performance at Carnegie Hall through an area contact who heard the ensemble play.

“Carnegie Hall is among the most prestigious concert halls in the world and is the premier concert hall in the United States. Carnegie Hall has a wonderful history and is one of our nation’s treasures. To play in that wonderful place is an honor and a privilege,” he said.

“I had the opportunity to perform in Carnegie Hall when I was a student at the University of Tennessee," Hunter said. "It was one of the best musical experiences of my life, and it was a time I will never forget. I feel sure that our musicians will feel the same thing, and I think that this experience should help them want to keep making music for the rest of their lives”

Besides being afforded the opportunity to perform in Carnegie Hall, the students will get to explore New York City during the visit, which is Feb. 10-15. Hunter said only a few of the ensemble members have been to New York City, so visiting the huge metropolis will be yet another new treat. “I suspect that many of our band members have never flown, so this will be their first opportunity to experience air travel,” he said.

The group will be staying in a hotel near Times Square and will access to the many attractions in the heart of the city. Highlight of the trip will be their performance at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 12. The Denham Springs High musicians will also listen to the other performers at the ensemble invitation and will hear the Chicago Symphony, which will perform at Carnegie Hall during the same time that the high school bands will be in New York City.

Hunter said the wind ensemble has been preparing for this big moment since they learned in the spring they would be making the trip.

“It’s been a long, tough road back from the floods at the start of the 2016 school year. Our school was flooded, many of our students were out of their homes, but somehow we all hung in there together through those difficult times. I’ve taken the attitude that we must persevere no matter the challenges. We teach every day as if nothing had happened. As teachers, we have to show compassion. … We owe it to the kids … and above all, we owe it to them to give it our best,” he said.

Hunter said his band is having a good year. The group recently finished the competition section of the fall semester. “We participated in several festivals and contests, and we received superior ratings at all of the events. We have a dedicated group, and they are all willing to work and work together. I tell our band members that there is no ‘bench’ in band. They have no substitutes. It’s up to each individual to his or her part to make great music. It’s a responsibility they have accepted,” he said.

The wind ensemble is preparing for its Winter Concert that will be held in the Hornsby Gymnasium on Dec. 14. Hunter said the band has been especially busy this year, performing around the community and at sports events and competitions.

After the Winter Concert, the group will concentrate on the music it will be playing in Carnegie Hall.

The trip will be expensive, Hunter said, and it will cost about $2,000 for each participant.

“We think that we are giving our students a great value for the cost of the trip," Hunter said. "This is something they will never forget. The price of the trip includes the airline tickets, ground transportation, lodging and meals. This is a big undertaking, but I think that the cost is more than justified.”

The band has had several fundraisers, including a mattress sale and a jambalaya dinner sale, and more fundraisers are planned Hunter said. He added, "Of course, we will happily accept any donations that just might come our way.”