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It’s time to sing and SHS students, from left, Rachel Hould, Clara Waters, Joshua Buck, Kimmy Riehl, Baylen Moss, Hannah Nelson and James Waters, are ready to share their songs with the public and adjudicators during District Music Festival being held at Shelby High School on Friday and Saturday, April 5 and 6.

On Friday, April 5 and Saturday, April 6, Shelby High School will be alive with the sound of music as students perform throughout both days during District Music Festival. Talented musicians from Browning, Chinook, Cut Bank, Harlem, Havre, North Star and Sunburst will be participating in the the two-day event. 

“Typically Big Sandy, Box Elder, Chester and Valier are part of our district,” said SHS band director, Ron Gruber. “But due to scheduling conflicts they are not attending our festival this year.”

There is still plenty of great music to be heard! On Friday there will be bands and choirs performing in the auditorium and gym from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., then from 5-7 p.m. piano events will take place in the auditorium. Saturday will feature a variety of solos and small ensembles performing throughout the classrooms from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday’s music ranges from vocalist to percussion ensembles and jazz bands. The best part? All of this live music is free for the public to enjoy!

All high school band and choir students must perform as part of the ensemble for District Music Festival, but if a student wants to perform a solo or in a smaller ensemble that is their choice. 

“I work with students on selecting and preparing the music if they want the help,” said Gruber. “Some students have private lesson teachers who help them select a song that is appropriate for their ability level and work with them individually. I do not select any students to be part of the solos and small ensemble, but there is some suggestion made to certain students who would really blossom in that environment.”

Gruber doesn’t just start preparing for music festival a month or two ahead of time. Instead, he is selecting music for most of the school year during the summer and for music festival there are usually several songs that he has in mind.

“After we start school back up in January we will start working on those selections and narrow it down to two or three that works best with each ensemble,” said Gruber.

District Music Festival has been a tradition for many years, but the process has evolved over the past decade. Gruber explained that when it originally started the host of the festival would schedule all the events, which could be over 200, an overwhelming scheduling task no matter how you look at it! With technology in play, that has been made much simpler.

“With the use of online collaboration software we are able to allow each school’s directors the opportunity to schedule their own events,” said Gruber. “As the festival host I still create a performance schedule for the bands and choirs that perform on Friday and the basic schedule the directors fill in with their events. After the schedule is created I then have to organize all the adjudication forms so each adjudicators has the correct form for the solos and ensembles performing in their room.”

Even with the aid of technology, hosting the festival itself is still a huge task, one requiring the help of many. Adjudicators are hired to listen to each performance and give feedback to the groups performing but there are many other behind-the-scenes work being done by volunteers. Currently, help is still being sought for the two-day event, with people being needed to help monitor rooms and hallways to make sure the performers are not interrupted. There is also some space for people to help with recording the scores and preparing certificates for all the performers on Saturday.

“If anyone wants to help out on Friday or Saturday I can find a job for them,” smiled Gruber. “If anyone is interested in helping out they can email me at ron.gruber@shelby.k12.mt.us, or call me at the high school 424-8910 ext. 2220. If I don’t answer please leave me a message. We are in need of helpers, especially on Saturday from eight until noon and from one until five.”

District Music Festival is a great opportunity for students to perform and learn, the community to appreciate some great musical talent, and also for the directors as they also receive helpful feedback on what they can improve on in their programs and what is going really well. Students receiving a Superior rating at District qualify for the State Music Festival in May. What Gruber enjoys most about music festival though, is working with students, the bonds that are formed and seeing them succeed.

“I find that the growth students make while preparing solos or small ensembles to be great for their personal development,” said Gruber. “Most students who do an event, other than performing with the full band or choir, show a marked difference in how they present themselves in class after the festival. It is a joy hearing how the student felt their performance went after they are done. The support students give each other on the day of the festival is a great example of the family bond that is created during the ensemble rehearsals.”

District Music Festival is a terrific opportunity for the public to hear the students perform music in a variety of styles and ability levels. The musicians performing have dedicated hours to rehearsing and preparing for the event. Come and show your support for these students while enjoying a variety of great musical performances on April 5 and 6 at Shelby High School.

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