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G-Dub band is W.Va.'s best

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's all about the brass. Woodwinds and percussion, too. Even a French horn for good measure.

The West Virginia Music Educators Association named George Washington High School's band "West Virginia Honor Band" for 2012, acknowledging that it is the best high school band in the state this year.

However, the band's success was overshadowed because the award announcement and concert in Morgantown occurred during the state high school basketball tournament, where GW fell by one point in the Class AAA final.

Trickle-down awareness of the band's success was finally registering at the school a week after the basketball tournament wrapped up; something students in the band said can be the norm.

"Sports kind of does that," senior Franklin Roberts said. The bass clarinet player said he doesn't think the shadow cast by athletics puts the band at a disadvantage, though.

"I don't think we are underappreciated," he said, acknowledging that recognition can be different for sports.

Band director Mark Hardman said he hopes there is more support by the school for the band in the future - perhaps with an in-school concert.

He said winning the Honor Band award this year was "no surprise."

"I have been teaching here for 15 years, and I can honestly say this one might be the best [band] we've ever had," Hardman said. Of the 63 students in the band, 14 were named to the All-State band, including six freshmen.

"The talent in this group is extremely high," he said.

This is the seventh time a Hardman-directed GW band has been named Honor Band. The group performed in Morgantown over the weekend of March 17 at the WVMEA conference in front of Hardman's colleagues from across the state.

"That is the highest honor I could have," he said.

Junior French horn player Katie Vandall said band members had no idea they won the statewide competition.

"We were kind of surprised," she said. "We didn't know Mr. Hardman was going to announce it in class when he did. We all kind of went crazy."

Each band is scored up to 100 points and a band that wins top honors must get at least 90 points. Last year, the GW band entered the competition, but was not chosen, something Hardman said is healthy for student musicians.

"For several years, being named an honor finalist was sort of an expectation," he said. Losing is something that makes students humble and encourages them to work harder, something Hardman tries to teach his pupils.

"Everyone has greatness inside," he said. "It's just about tapping into it."

During Roberts' freshman year, the GW band also won top honors, but this most recent win is special.

"It's a good way to have everything end," the graduating senior said.

Roberts said he'll miss many things about GW when he moves on.

"Aside from making music, there is a really good community of people," he said of his band mates. And although the students actually played the music that won them top honors, Roberts said a lot of credit lies with Hardman.

"As hard as we work, he works harder," Roberts said. "That is a large part of our success."

Among other standard concert-band fare, the GW band played "Chorus Angelorum" by Samuel R. Hazo, which was written in honor of a grandmother and grandson killed in a Maryland car crash in 2005.

"It's very emotional for the students," Hardman said.

To keep the playing field level, GW cannot enter the competition next year, but Vandall said the bar to be the best has definitely been raised.

"It's big shoes to fill," she said, "but it's exciting to have the challenge."

Reach Kathryn Gregory at kathryng@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.


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