BEGINNINGS OF BAND 'FESTIVAL' VS. 'CONTEST'NOTES DA CAPO - By Clifford Brown
If you revere those early settlers who conquered the wild west, then you should honor those pioneers who blazed some early music trails in our own wild west - West Virginia. In 1927 Karl Brown of Terra Alta, Glenn Sallack of Beckley, and J. Henry Francis of Charleston organized and conducted the first West Virginia State High School Orchestra and the first West Virginia State Symphonic Band. (If you'll dig out your October, 1982 NOTES A TEMPO you'll see pictures of these two groups).
Like all entrepreneurs, these three music pioneers had an idea, and they pursued it to a triumphant end. Their success apparently set the pattern for the All-State Band, Orchestra, and Chorus festivals that the WVMEA and its affiliates have sponsored for almost six decades. These festivals provide an exciting challenge for deserving students and their teachers. Singing and playing some of the great music literature under highly qualifiied guest conductors, then sharing this experience in a concert for the parents is an event never to be forgotten. For many of the participants it may be the highlight of their high school days. For a few it may provide the incentive to aspire to a professional career in music - teaching, performing, creating, sales, advertising, or whatever.
Historically the music festival was a wholesome alternative to the music contests that were promoted during the 1920s by many educators through-out the nation. These contests were like an athletic tournament. Local contests determined winners who could then compete in a district, then an area, a state, and even in a national contest. There was always one winner, leaving behind a multitude of disenchanted losers. Because of the bitter rivalry generated and the frequent breakdown in providing qualified judges, the contest idea eventually disintegrated. Fortunately in West Virginia the contests were not as prevalent as in some adjacent states. Thanks to our frontiersmen, Brown - Sallack - Francis, the festival idea of cooperating rather than competing pre-ernpted the spread of contests in West Virginia.
Tacet ... for now.