Ben Dunz, Sydney Puffenbarger and Maxine Puffenbarger, members of the Pocahontas County High School Warrior Band, were chosen by WVU Honor Band to participate in this year’s WVU Honor Band Invitational High School event and concert. The event, which was held at the WVU Creative Arts Center in Morgantown, gave the students an opportunity to work with nationally known conductors.
“They have had WVU Honor Band since about 1980,” PCHS band director Rick McLaughlin said. “I was in WVU Honor Band when I was a senior in high school.”
“There were five states represented this year,” he continued. “They selected 185 high school students from those five states, and they came together on Thursday evening and practiced a little bit, and again on Friday. Then, Saturday morning, they had their dress rehearsal and put on a concert that afternoon.
“There are three bands – The Mountaineer Band, which is the top one, the Gold Band and the Blue Band, which are basically equal bands. We had two students who made the Gold Band and one who made the Blue. I nominated eight students, and they selected three.”
“It is a big honor because you have to be one of the best,” McLaughlin said. “So, the bands are really top notch and top quality.
“I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Ben Dunz is a senior at PCHS, and he talked about the experience.
“It was awesome,” Ben said. “It was an honor just performing in front of so many people. The Creative Arts Center is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I’m used to performing in our high school auditorium. It’s like three times the size of that. I believe our band had sixty people in it. And we had a section of like seven or eight French Horns. I am not used to having French horns in a band. That was definitely an experience.
“Whenever we first started sight reading, we got through the first song and our director told us we definitely needed practice, and it sounded like we had been playing for months upon months. It was like definitely a shocker to hear her say ‘that spot needs some work and that spot needs some work.’ I thought those were perfect. In the concert, we put it all together, and it sounded amazing.
Sydney Puffenbarger is a junior at PCHS.
“It was just such an honor to get to play with other talented musicians,” Sydney said. “I am in percussion, and I wasn’t used to walking in and seeing all of these percussion back in their section, and playing their part almost perfectly right away. It was insane. I remember one of the parts I got was for snare drum. I stayed up until 11:30 Thursday night in my room, playing it, to perfect it, so I could go back and actually sound like I knew what I was doing. It is so different than playing with our band – going with a band that doubled the size and with way more instrumentation than what we have. And, I would definitely do it again in a heartbeat.”
Maxine Puffenbarger is a senior at PCHS.
“It was truly an honor,” Maxine said. “It was double the size of the band I am used to playing in. We went through all our music the first day. The first time I thought we were like perfect. We got it down pat, but my conductor, Lieutenant Commander Kelly Cartwright, stopped us and she was like ‘yeah, we need some work.’
“It was an absolute honor to be there. It made my eyes open a little bit wider about being in the music profession.”