State Line Wind Symphony keeps music alive
By Leslie Grace | A! Magazine for the Arts | June 29, 2016The desire to keep music alive and a great deal of prodding by former students, colleagues and musicians was the impetus behind the formation of the State Line Wind Symphony.
Scott Lambert and Mark Collins started the group in 2013 after many requests from fellow musicians. Lambert is the former band director at John S. Battle High School, Bristol, Virginia, and Collins is the current director.
The group is comprised of community members, band directors, college students and music professionals from the region, including Upper East Tennessee, Western North Carolina and Southwest Virginia.
"The State Line Wind Symphony aims to bring together those who love to play music and to perform for those who love to listen," Collins says.
There is no audition. Participants must be at least 18, have successfully performed in a high school band and be recommended by one of the current members. The ensemble is comprised of college music faculty from East Tennessee State University, Appalachian State, Southwest Virginia Community College and Mountain Empire Community College, the University of Virginia at Wise, retired musicians, band directors, church music professionals and individuals from all professions and walks of life.
"With each rehearsal the band has grown in membership, resulting in a fully instrumented wind symphony of over 75 members performing in each concert with an overall membership of over 150. The philosophy of the State Line Wind Symphony is simple, play and have fun doing it," says Lambert.
The symphony rehearses at John S. Battle High School. They rehearse four to five times before the spring concert and twice for their Christmas concert.
"Preparing for each concert with a limited number of rehearsals is our greatest challenge. Forest Gump states, "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you'll get.' We never have all members on our roster attend each rehearsal and concert as they may have conflicts with our rehearsal or performance dates.
"Proper instrumentationis the biggest challenge. However, we have always had a balanced ensemble at each performance due to the depth of our roster and the dedication of our members. The group must be properly balanced among woodwinds (flutes, clarinets, double reeds, low reeds,saxes), brass (trumpets, horns, trombones,baritones, tubas) andpercussion (true percussionists who play bothkeyboard,auxiliary and drums).
"Logistics are difficult, but thanks to the generosity of theWashington County Public Schools and its band directors, administrators and staff, we are able to meet the equipment needs of the ensemble," Collins says.
The symphony performs all types of wind band literature including marches, overtures, programmatic pieces, transcriptions from major orchestral literature, medleys, jazz, pop, patriotic tunes and more.
Lambert and Collins have decades of experience leading bands. Lambert retired after teaching for 31 years in public schools. He is active as a clinician, adjudicator, arranger and show designer for school bands, military bands and honor bands across the United States. His bands received 17 Virginia Honor Band awards and more than 450 awards in marching, concert and jazz competitions during his career. They received more than 60 superior ratings at District Concert Festivals, performed for the National Band Association Convention, twice for the Virginia Music Educators Conference and the Mid-West International Band and Orchestra Clinic.
His marching bands performed for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Niagara Falls Blossom Festival Parade, Cotton Bowl Parade, two Tournament of Roses Parades, Orange Bowl Parade and Mardi Gras Parade. Lambert's marching bands won state championships multiple times in Virginia and South Carolina and were two-time division champions in the Bands of America Southeast Regionals and finalists in the Bands of America Grand National Championships.
Collins is in his 25th year as band director at Battle. He worked for Vanderbilt University Marching Band as adjunct faculty percussion coordinator and adjunct coordinator of percussion studies at the University of Virginia's College at Wise.He has also served as a consultant to colleges as a curriculum design specialist for music education program development.In addition, he is active as a researcher in music education and has presented his research findings on "The Music Effect on Students at the Collegiate Level" at the 2006 Southern Regional Research Conference.He is active in the Percussive Arts Society and serves as vice-president of the Virginia/DC Chapter.
His concert bands have received superior ratings 24 years in sight-reading and on-stage performance at state concert festivals. On the marching field, the Battle band has won 20 Grand Championships and over 200 Caption Awards and consistently places over 60 students in the Virginia Band Association Regional Honor Band Events.
In addition, they have performed at numerous national concert festivals where they received superior ratings. Recently, the John Battle Percussion Ensemble placed in the Percussive Arts Society International Conference Concert Ensemble competition in Indianapolis in 2014.
Collins and Lambert's State Line Symphony's audience has grown dramatically since the first performance in May 2013. Their first concert was standing room only. The concerts have been moved to the larger Southwest Virginia HigherEducational Center in Abingdon. Their concert attendance has grown from 400 to more than 850. They have two free performances each year. The next concert is their Christmas offering, Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m.
They say that the best part of a community orchestra is "keeping music alive in the region and letting everyone know that band does not end with high school. We have a great time at all of our rehearsals and making music is fun, but moreimportantly, there is no better gift than the gift of good music."
For more information about the State Line Wind Symphony, visit www.statelinewinds.org.
Community band thrives in Johnson City
Mark Collins is a co-director and co-founder of State Line Wind Symphony.
Scott Lambert is a co-director and co-founder of State Line Wind Symphony.