Middle-schoolers strike up the band

More than 250 sixth- and seventh-grade students will gather from throughout the area Saturday for the annual Karl King Middle School Honor Band Festival at St. Edmond High School.

Marianne Kesten, who organizes the event, said about 50 schools will be represented.

The sixth-grade students have their placement in the orchestra selected by section. The seventh-grade students have to earn them.

“They have to audition for places,” she said. “It’s a very big deal.”

She said the festival offers the students several firsts.

“It’s their first event that they’re able to play in a big 100-piece band,” she said.

That big orchestra also means that for some of the students, it will be the first time they’re really able to hear some of the other instruments she said.

Her own sons, Stephen and Thomas Kesten, participated in the event. Both are now in college.

“It was such a positive experience for them,” Marianne Kesten said.

Each orchestra will have to play several pieces of music. The students have been given the music in advance to help them prepare for the day.

She said the directors challenge the students with their selections.

“They pick higher level music,” she said.

That includes a selection from the event’s namesake.

“At least one piece has to be by Karl King,” Kesten said. “Karl King music is not easy to play.”

The day will begin with the auditions, then move into practice sessions to get the students playing together well. Except for some short breaks, the students are at it all day.

“They work hard all day long,” she said.

Guest directors at this year’s event include Leon Kuehner, and Randall Winkey, the musical director at Hampton-Dumont schools. Kelly Albrecht, with St. Edmond, is the hosting director.

St. Edmond students who will be performing include sixth-graders Morgan Border, Cooper Fleming, Josie Huss, Luanne Xiao, Josephine Perry and Jack Stackhouse. Seventh-grade students from St. Edmond include Zoe Assadipour, Korbin Brown, Michelle Waller and Ayrton Peterson.

Kesten said she encourages the students’ parents and the public to attend the event to support the students.

“The parents are our best cheerleaders,” she said.

The students will perform at 5 p.m. in the gym. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children; admission for ages 3 and under is free.