In December of last year, 16 of Chamblee’s band students were ecstatic to learn that they had been selected to attend JanFest, a music festival for high school band students.
JanFest, a four-day event hosted by the University of Georgia, is made up of about 1000 kids from 130 different schools. This year, the festival took place January 19-22. Any band student can apply for the festival through their band teacher. Students are chosen at random to attend. The 16 students from Chamblee who attended were Sarah Williams, Hailey Maxwell, Emmy Cooper, Jessica Eleazer, Zachary Reid, William Rohrbach, Brendan Bassett, Hannah Wilborn, Charlie Penn, Emma Dickinson, Caroline Johnston, Catherine Willingham, Meghan Ashley, Christine Delon, Noah Ashley, and Corey Williams .
“I love band, and doing four days of band sounded pretty much like heaven to me,” said sophomore Hailey Maxwell.
Maxwell applied for JanFest last year, but, unfortunately, did not get in. Others, however, have been lucky enough to attend several times.
“I’ve done it every year since my freshman year and it’s been fun every time,” said senior Caroline Johnston.
Freshman Brendan Bassett attended JanFest for the first time this year. Last year, he also had the opportunity to go to MidFest, a three-day event similar to JanFest, but for middle schoolers.
“There was much more of a social aspect at JanFest,” said Bassett. “We did a lot more stuff with other people.”
Upon arrival at JanFest, each student must perform an audition piece, given to students a few months prior, in front of the judges. The judges then evaluate the student’s abilities, and place them in one of eight bands. Placing the students in a band that suits their needs is an important task, but a time-consuming one.
“The audition process took kind of a long time,” said sophomore Sarah Williams.
Throughout the weekend, students take part in multiple rehearsals with their band as well as instrumental clinics with other students who play the same instrument. These rehearsals and clinics were back to back, so by the end of the weekend, all of the students were exhausted.
“Walking everywhere, playing your instrument a lot, it was hard,” said junior Zachary Reid. “Even two days after JanFest I was still really tired.”
Interspersed are various concerts from featured bands. Some of these concerts are from high school bands; others are from UGA bands and local community bands.
“Southwest DeKalb High School’s band performed the first night and they just blew me away,” said Maxwell. “They were amazing.”
Students also have plenty of free time during the weekend, during which they can explore the City of Athens or just hang out.
“Athens is one of my favorite places, so getting to walk around there was really nice,” said Williams. “They have some of the best food there.”
At the end of the weekend, students perform concerts with the bands they were placed in upon their arrival, playing pieces that they rehearsed throughout the weekend.
By the end of the weekend, the students who attended JanFest this year had gathered many memorable experiences. They believe JanFest is something that every band kid has to experience, especially ones who want to do something with music in the future.
“It’s a totally different atmosphere at JanFest than in any other band,” said Reid.
This different atmosphere allows students to witness what it is like to play in a band outside of Chamblee.
“It’s a really cool opportunity because you get a chance to play in a different ensemble with kids who want to be there and play music,” said Johnston.
JanFest not only provides memories to students who attend, but also benefits the band program here at Chamblee. Students who attend obtain skills and knowledge that they would not otherwise learn, and are then able to share thisknowledge with their fellow students.
All in all, the students who attended JanFest were able to expand their understanding and love of music while spending time with friends and building new relationships.
“What I loved so much about it was the feeling of belonging,” said Maxwell. “Being with all 16 of us and knowing that we’re all there from the same school and for the same reason was really cool.”