Regional Band Festival showcases Duquesne and student success

Emma Polen | features editor. The 155-student band was led by Donald McKinney, a Duquesne music school alumn and nationally-renown conductor.

by Emma Polen | features editor

March 17, 2022

Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) hosted its Region 1 Band Festival on Friday, March 11, with guest conductor and Duquesne alumni, Donald McKinney. 

The performance featured 155 students from 60 high schools across Western Pennsylvania, and took place in the Mt. Lebanon High School auditorium. 

The band was made up of student musicians from two district divisions of PMEA, one of which performed in a district festival at Duquesne University in January (see News, Jan. 27 Issue).

While Duquesne was not the host of the regional band festival, its musical talent lived on through their behind-the-scenes work (Robert Traugh and Paul Doerksen made contributions), and guest conductor McKinney. 

McKinney is the current director of bands, professor of conducting, and chair of the conducting area at the University of Colorado Boulder College of Music. Before that, he held faculty positions at Louisiana State University, Interlochen Arts Academy and Duquesne University. He completed a portion of his musical education at Duquesne University. 

With his ties to the city, McKinney said he was “so happy to be back,” at the concert.

A new challenge that McKinney and the group faced was time. While rehearsal time is always optimized (students come together for two days, roughly 12 hours in total to rehearse before the final performance) this year’s Region 1 Band Festival was rescheduled from Saturday, March 12, to Friday, March 11, due to weather concerns. With this, McKinney was given the task of rehearsing the group for a total of seven hours. 

Of the five pieces students were given to practice ahead of the group rehearsal, they performed three, with the addition of the Star-Spangled Banner and the Salute to PMEA March. 

After introductions, the band launched into their performance of Festival Overture, a piece McKinney said he had heard at a previous PMEA festival and had to play with the group. 

 McKinney is back in Colorado to conduct his bands, and local high school students are looking forward to participating in the All-State PMEA Band Festival happening in April at the Poconos.