Honoring Karl King tradition

Leon Kuehner, the music director at Hampton-Dumont Community Schools has a big challenge at the annual Karl King Middle School Honor Band Festival.

It’s his job to get about 100 students – most of whom have never played together before – to perform several pieces of difficult music like they’ve practicing for weeks.

“You have four hours,” he said as the morning rehearsal was finishing up. “It’s a fun challenge.”

Each of the participating students, from about 45 area schools, is hand-selected to participate.

Kuehner is impressed with their skills.

“It’s amazing how quickly they adapt,” he said. “Even during a two-hour rehearsal, they’re focused the whole time.”

Doing that can be difficult, just ask St. Edmond seventh grade trumpet player Korbin Brown.

“Sticking together and staying with it is hard,” he said. “You want to talk to the new people.”

Halfway through the day, Kuehner was most of the way to having the score down.

“I’m still learning, I’ll get there,” he said.

His bandmate, Ayrton Peterson, was on the other side of the group playing flute.

For her, the hardest part of the day was playing the parts over and over and keeping focused.

“It’s easy to get distracted,” she said.

This is her second year in the Honor Band. This year, she got to meet up with one of her friends who had moved away.

“Now she sits by me,” she said.

Being a veteran, she said she knew what to expect. It only left her one thing to worry about.

“I was nervous about the audition,” Peterson said. “But then it got canceled.”

That was due to the weather, several schools were unable to attend so the auditions for chair positions were canceled.

She had high hopes for the sound they would make during the afternoon’s concert.

“I think it will be really good,” she said.

Both the sixth- and seventh-grade bands each performed one piece of Karl King music, he has a reputation as being hard to play.

“Some of the rhythms are new and not seen in other music,” Peterson said. “He’s one of my favorites though.”

St. Edmond’s Kelly Albrecht is the hosting director for event.

She said the event gives her music students an opportunity to play some high caliber challenging music. In addition, they get to meet new friends at the event. She’s seen many lasting friendships start at the festival.

While she’s spent a lot of time helping to plan the event, today her role was a little simpler.

“Today, it’s mostly just keeping things running,” Albrecht said.