One of the most prestigious honors any band can achieve is the selection to perform at the University of Georgia’s MidFest, a three-day event established in 1990 for middle school band musicians.
Students are nominated by their band directors to attend and play in the weekend honor band experience, which, as its climax, features three standout band programs that perform for conference attendees and guests. The three standard-setting bands are selected to play a program of their choosing and are a highlight of the event. To be chosen as a featured MidFest band is akin to being selected to perform at the Georgia Music Educators Association annual conference or to be asked to be a keynote speaker at a convention.
In 2020, MidFest was held virtually. However, in this year’s 31st annual conference, which typically boasts of roughly 1,000 students from 130 schools, two of the bands, South Forsyth and East Cobb middle schools, have been invited back to perform live. Only one slot was open for another band. The group selected was Buford Middle School Symphonic Band, under the direction of Mrs. Kathy Mason.
“The application process included a written application and the submission of a recording of a live performance,” Mason said of the selection process. “I am so excited for our students to have this opportunity. Some of the best parts of being in band are the experiences, memories and friendships that are made. Not only will this be a great memory for them, but it also gives them a glimpse into college life.”
Mason, who formerly taught band at Creekland Middle School, is in her 26th year of teaching and third year at BMS. Of the 265 students in her program at BMS, many have continued on their instruments into the high school program.
“One of the pieces the students will perform features the Buford Middle and High School All-State Band members from 2021,” said Mason, whose middle school band feeds her husband’s program at Buford High School. Mr. Erik Mason is in his second year as director of bands at BHS and just finished a series of four regional, open to all GHSA classifications marching band competitions, finishing first or second overall at each.
Students chosen for the MidFest honor band will have the opportunity to work with skilled conductors and, after only four rehearsals together, play a variety of challenging pieces for a demonstration concert at the culmination of the conference. Five students from BMS were selected for this year’s festival: Hannah Jung, Marely Vargas, Elena Anderson, Brielle Browne and Olivia Duong.
“I’m extremely proud of these young musicians and grateful to Mrs. Mason for the outstanding instruction she delivers each day,” said Dr. Chris Fowler, Buford City Schools fine arts coordinator. “I know they will represent our school system with excellence and class.”
The Buford Middle School Symphonic Band, made up of 75 students, will perform at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9, at Hugh Hodgson Concert Hall at the University of Georgia. Admission is free and open to the public.
FEATURED PHOTO ABOVE: The Buford Middle School Symphonic Band poses for its official MidFest program photo. Photo by Lily McGregor Photography