Regional bands gather to perform at the Concert Band Festival

Inaugural Concert Band Festival brings middle and high school bands together

Cade Fisher

More stories from Cade Fisher

December 7, 2023

Photo by Cade Fisher

Around half a dozen bands visit UW-Eau Claire each week to work with the faculty

The first Concert Band Festival was held on Tuesday at the Pablo Center. This event featured performances from numerous bands and critiques of their performances.

As seen on the Pablo Center’s events list, these performances and critiques covered a multitude of regional bands and hosted critiques from UW-Eau Claire faculty and guest critiquers.

According to that same events list, the festival was open to the public with a $7 entrance fee for adults and a $0.50 fee for youth and students.

The bands performed in the RCU Theater in the Pablo Center. This theater is a 3,124 square-foot space with 1,200 seats. The 50 feet wide and 40 feet depth stage will host all the bands performing.

Phil Ostrander, a professor of trombone and symphony band at UW-Eau Claire, and John Stewart, an associate professor of music at UW-Eau Claire, have been working to create this event and act as critiquers at the performances.

According to Ostrander, the Concert Band Festival has been designed to allow for observations, coaching, critiques and clinics for the visiting bands. 

According to the UW-Eau Claire website, the university is a founding partner in the construction of the Pablo Center. This connection has allowed students and faculty to use the center for practices, classes and performances.

This connection between UW-Eau Claire and the Pablo Center is what allows UW-Eau Claire to put on this event. According to Ostrander, the event was planned to be at the Pablo as it allowed regional bands to have the experience to play at the Pablo Center.

The bands that participated in the event included regional middle and high school bands. According to Ostrander, many of these bands have state requirements to be critiqued or observed during the school year.

This collaboration allowed for a multitude of regional bands to fill this requirement, perform at the Pablo Center and hear from multiple professors of music for their expertise.

Shanti Simon, director of bands at the University of Oklahoma, joined the event as a guest judge and critiquer. She has also previously worked as a conductor in the United States Air Force Academy Band.

After the Concert Band Festival, Simon is scheduled to work with some UW-Eau Claire symphony band students in Haas Fine Arts Center. 

“The female musicians that perform and the visiting groups, as well as the groups in Eau Claire, really enjoy and deserve to work with a female guest conducting artist,” Ostrander said.

This Concert Band Festival was the first time this event has been held in Eau Claire and is planned to continue according to Pablo’s event list.

The Pablo Center has seen an increase in events as seen on its list as COVID-19 mandates and precautions have been lowered.

“The chance to just make music in person with relatively few safety protocols feels still like a privilege to me,” Ostrander said. “I’m just grateful that we have the chance to do some collaborative music-making.”

The UW-Eau Claire Symphony Band Orchestra is scheduled to follow up the Concert Band Festival on Thursday at the Pablo Center in the RCU Theater.

Fisher can be reached at [email protected].