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Century Winds hit high note at MMEA

Century seniors Mickaela Pasch, left, and Spencer Ketterling were part of the 64-student symphonic winds band performing in the Minnesota Music Educators Association 2018 Midwinter Clinic on Friday in Minneapolis.

The day started early for the Minnesota Music Educators Association. But those willing to take their coffee to an early performance Friday saw some of Rochester’s best high school musicians.

The 2018 Midwinter Clinic started Thursday. On Friday, the Century High School Symphonic Winds, an audition-only group of 64 performing 10th- through 12th-graders, played a 45-minute set at 9:15 a.m.

Plenty of people attend the MMEA conference and forums, but very few get to perform.

"It’s a great chance to showcase what Rochester music programs are doing," said Amanda Kaus, Century High School’s Director of Bands. "Our communities know, but we get to show the rest of the state."

Kaus has attended the MMEA conference every year since she became Century’s director of bands in 2012.


"A lot of times, it becomes very metrocentric," she said.

Last year, Kaus recorded the band playing "La Fiesta Mexicana" by H. Owen Reed and "Raging Machines" by Brian Balmages. A panel of board members blindly chose this year’s musical groups from a pool of such recordings.

Century High School made it in. It’s Century’s first year auditioning and performing.

The winds began rehearsing in mid-November for the showcase.

The biggest change this year hasn’t been the degree of difficulty in the music performed. It’s the length.

Usually, the bands prepare 20 to 30 minutes of music, but showcases at the MMEA conference are 45 minutes long. That’s too much to cram into a class period, even without the need to put instruments together and warm up before rehearsals.

In fact, a concert Wednesday night was the first chance the Symphonic Winds had to perform the entire concert straight through.

The band has learned to pace itself, said Spencer Ketterling, a senior at Century High who plays bassoon.


"You learn when to push yourself — when your part is more important — and when you don’t have to," he said. "You really have to retain focus for the whole concert, which is also a hard part."

Mickaela Pasch, a senior oboe player, agreed that preparing for the performance has made each member of the band a better ensemble player.

"It’s a lot of fun to do this sheer amount of music," she said.

Friday’s lineup allowed the band to "settle in" with "Fanfare and Flourishes" by James Curnow, then running through the American Hymnsong Suite by Dwayne S. Milburn. They broke it up with "Cafe 512," an energetic, Latin-inspired piece by Ryan George, then finished with "Russian Christmas Music" by Alfred Reed and "Khan" by Julie Giroux."

If you missed the Wednesday or Friday concerts, worry not.

At 7 p.m. March 2, the Symphonic Winds will share a stage with the University of Minnesota wind ensemble, performing about half of their Friday set.

"We’re comfortable with the music now," Kaus said. "Now it’s time to share it."

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