The Hellgate High School band will perform on the Chicago Symphony’s stage, as one of four high school bands accepted into the 2013 Chicago International Music Festival.

The honor was awarded to Hellgate’s wind ensemble and some members of the school’s symphonic bands.

In all, 75-some Hellgate students will take center stage in Chicago to play before a prestigious audience next March.

“Earlier this spring, we submitted auditions and applications to four different wind band festivals and we were accepted into this one,” said Leon Slater, director of bands. “Four high school bands and two college bands were accepted.

“The way the festivals are designed, they look for depth in the band,” Slater said. “They also look at the kind of literature your younger bands are playing to see what kind of strength is in the program.

“It’s like auditioning your program into the festival.”

In March 2013, the wind ensemble will travel to Chicago where they will play in the Chicago Symphony Center’s Orchestra Hall.

“We get to listen to them on Sunday,” Slater said. “On Tuesday, we get to play on the same stage.”

One of the highlights of the trip will be workshops with the president of the World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles and the college level conductors.

“We’ll get clinics,” Slater said. “Work with them on our prepared material. Working with these major conductors is a major part of why we are there.”

Rebecca Barsotti, 16, a junior, plays fourth flute in the Hellgate Band.

“It’s an honor to be chosen,” Barsotti said. “It was a lot of preparation – we had to get everything as close to perfect as possible. We ran the music a lot. We focused on all the little details to get it perfect and sounding great.”

Recording the music was hard, she said.

“Every musician has their off days,” Barsotti said. “You had to work around all that.”

The work taught her to focus on the details of expression and performance.

Justin Dawson, 17, a junior who plays the trumpet, said the recording days were challenging.

“It makes you a better player when you really have to think about what you are doing,” Dawson said.

While in Chicago, the students will also visit several museums and architectural landmarks, Slater said.

Barsotti said she is excited to see a new place and hear other bands perform.

“I’m really excited to have a chance to perform for a large group of people,” Barsotti said. “Such a well known group of people.”

Slater said he will be raising support for the band’s trip this summer, to “see if we can make this available to all the students, not just the ones who can afford it.”

Joanna Wilson is a journalism student at the University of Idaho and a Missoulian intern. She can be reached at (406) 523-5251.

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