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L-EHS percussion ensemble performs at national festival
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The Lugoff-Elgin High School Percussion Ensemble. The ensemble sent in a video recording of one of their performances last spring and was accepted to perform in Indianapolis, Ind., with several other percussion ensembles and concert bands around the county. The Sandy Feldstein National Percussion Festival is not a competition, but a showcase of the best ensembles. The festival provides private clinics for all ensembles and bands, as well as networking opportunities.

When Lugoff-Elgin High School (L-EHS) started its percussion ensemble four years ago, L-EHS Band Director Glenn Price said he wanted to go to a national festival.

Today, the L-EHS Percussion Ensemble is flexing its muscles at the Sandy Feldstein National Percussion Festival. The festival runs through Saturday and features some of the best ensembles in the country. The Feldstein festival is a part of the 2012 Music for All National Festival presented by Yamaha.

The ensemble traveled to Indianapolis, Ind., to perform, be critiqued and participate in a private clinic. It will attend a “black-tie optional” gala/awards banquet and have lots of networking opportunities.

“We’ve pushed this thing,” said Price, who has been band director since 1975. “We just want to be good; we want to put this on the map.”

The ensemble sent in a video recording of a performance last May and was accepted to perform in July. Price said he submitted the ensemble’s repertoire to the festival in September. Bands are not allowed to play the same piece as other bands, so there will be no comparisons. The festival is not a competition, said Price; the competition is being accepted to perform.

Price traveled to Indianapolis last November to preview the hotel and the performance area.

“These kids will be so jacked up they won’t know what to do,” Price said in a recent interview. “This isn’t the end, this is the beginning.”

Price said he would like the L-EHS percussion ensemble to grow from its current 12-student roster.

To take the students, their parents and all of their equipment to Indianapolis, L-EHS had to raise about $13,000. The ensemble sponsored Cici’s Pizza nights and a taco-night, sold doughnuts and fruit; worked University of South Carolina football games; and performed at various events around the county. Even so, they still had to pay out-of-pocket expenses.

 “It’s a big deal; to have our name on the same program as Mt. Lebanon of Pennsylvania and Carlton J. Kell of Georgia is an honor,” Price said.

The festival, which also has concert band performances, features high school and middle school bands from other states including Arizona and Florida.

Sean Stewart, 17, has come a long way since he took his first band class in sixth grade. Sean decided to “try it out” for a year at his mother’s suggestion.

“I didn’t want to be in the band because I thought it would make me look like a geek,” he said.

Sean, who said he has always been the drumming type, is the only senior L-EHS student on the percussion ensemble. He said he was “very excited” about performing at the festival.

The band is scheduled to perform four pieces: “Root Beer Rag” by Billy Joel, “Gainsborough” by Thomas Gauger, “Phase Dance” by Pat Metheny, and the fourth movement of Peter Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. The ensemble performed Tchaikovsky last year, but decided to bring it back for its performance in Indiana.

Like Sean, ninth-grader Cameron Johnson has been in band since sixth grade. He saw the L-EHS percussion ensemble play when he was in the eighth grade and he knew he wanted to be in the band. The youngest member of the ensemble said he is excited to play with some of the top percussion ensembles in the country.

“I’m always practicing because I want to help my percussion ensemble reach its fullest potential,” Cameron said. 

The Lugoff-Elgin Percussion Ensemble also includes Emily Block, Sheldon Carpenter, Amanda Fountain, Briana Holston, Adrianna McMurphy, Caitlyn Mooneyhan, Jansen Simmons, Cameron Small, Savannah Steele, Brandon Todd, Andrew Walker and Austin Veverica.

Kevin Flowers, a freelance musician and Newberry College’s director of percussion, has directed the L-EHS percussion program for three years.