PMEA Weekend at Duquesne

By: Kelsey Armstrong and Matthew Guadagnino (sophomores, Music Education)
Photo courtesy Michael Haritan, Haritan Photography

Participants of the PMEA District 1 Band West Festival posed for a group shot in the Power Center BallroomOn the weekend of January 28, 2022, Duquesne University had the privilege of hosting the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) District 1 Band West Festival in the Charles J. Dougherty Ballroom in the Power Center. Co-hosted by Robert Traugh (Composition Area Coordinator) and Dr. Paul Doerksen (Professor of Music Education), this event hosted 130 students from 33 different school districts to perform 6 songs together as a full concert band. Throughout this event, Mary Pappert School of Music students were "all hands on deck"—all 48 participating in professional development sessions and making connections with band directors from the participating schools.

Dr. Paul Doerksen describes the biggest takeaways that the music education students obtained while volunteering at the event, saying "Duquesne's pre-service music educators saw excellence on many levels-individual high school programs and their directors, master classes and director sessions led by superb School of Music faculty members, and the collective work ethic of a large ensemble under the director of a master educator and conductor. I'm hopeful that this high bar of musicianship informs their own vision of what school music programs can accomplish."

While the high school students worked diligently to prepare for their performance on Saturday, the music education students also attended master classes held by members in the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and graduate students of the Mary Pappert School of Music.

Music education sophomore Sydney Seckman reflects on her experience saying, "We also had the chance to attend master classes given by members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra which were outstanding professional development opportunities." Different sessions included percussion basics, how to build a strong clarinet section, and how to bring technology into the music classroom.

Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic and University protocols regarding the gathering of large groups, parents were unable to join the audience in-person for the performance, but many tuned in via live stream from home and watched from the PNC Recital Hall. The 37 band directors involved, along with the music education students, enthusiastically supported the band from the audience.

Working through snow delays and covid restrictions, the students were able to put together a fantastic concert full of challenging and fun music, including a piece composed by Duquesne's very own, Elizabeth Pompa. Guest conductor and Director of Bands Dr. James Gourlay, here at Duquesne University comments, "I found the two days spent with the PMEA students to be a hugely inspiring experience. I had chosen some quite challenging repertoire and was super impressed with the way the students at first struggled a bit but worked hard to achieve a great result. The final concert was a testament to their hard work and dedication."

Overall, the event was a huge success for both the University and all students involved in the process! Duquesne hopes to host the festival tri-annually in the future to give all music ed students the opportunity to experience such a great event.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 8,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University’s academic programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim.

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