What is it like to be in a Honors Band?

Written by Gwen Colvin

An honors band is a group of students who represent the best musicians from each middle and high school. Each honors band is unique from 6th-12th grade. Some require students to pass an audition and others selected students. I have played with a total of three honors bands. The two types I have performed with are PMEA and Allegheny Valley Honors Band.

The first honors band I ever joined was in March of 6th grade. I was very nervous because I didn’t exactly know what I was getting myself into. I had been selected and had to learn difficult songs all by myself. Once March came around, I had to go to Hampton Middle School (Performances are held at a different school each year) for a Friday practice that lasted the length of school day. We only had a few breaks. On Saturday, we rehearsed until around 2 PM, when the concert started.

Our parents joined us in the auditorium for the show, which lasted a couple of hours. I played the second clarinet, which is my best instrument.

In January of 2023, I performed for the Allegheny Valley Honors Band. In late November of 2022, I had to audition for the position against many other 7th , 8th , and 9th grade clarinet players. The next day I got the great news that I was selected for the Honors Band. The music was even harder than the year before since I was playing with 9th grade musicians.

Once Winter Break was over, I went to Fox Chapel High School and the senior band (10th-12th) was also there. Like my first experience with PMEA (this time on a Thursday), I spent an entire day rehearsing for the show. The concert was at 7PM the next evening, so we practiced for most of the Friday as well.

At the concert, the Jr. Band went first and then the Senior Band performed. The Senior Band’s set list was very long compared to mine, which was around two pages of notes. They performed songs of five pages of notes. For this honors band, we got a little badge/pin that had the colors of Fox Chapel on it and the year.

The latest honors band I have participated with was the Junior Band for PMEA in early March of this year. Unlike AV (Allegheny Valley), only the Junior Band played. It was at Mt. Lebanon high school.

Compared to the Shaler, Mt. Lebanon was enormous. Saying it was big would be an understatement. It was HUGE. They had a cafeteria that was multiple levels, a huge (basically a theater) auditorium, and flat screen TVs in classrooms.

Like the PMEA in 6th grade, this show had a Friday to Saturday rehearsal. Friday was like what it normally is for honors bands but this time I knew the majority of people whom were selected so I had people to chat with.

Compared to AV, the pieces were shorter, but still complicated. On Saturday we had a banquet meal and we ate pasta (I had banquets at others as well). I now realize that all of the honor bands I’ve played for serve a type of pasta at the banquet.

As concerts go, we wore black and white outfits for our performance. The band did an awesome job and the show was a success. Any band students from 6th-12th grades who are interested should try to do PMEA and Allegheny Valley Honors Band (if you are brave enough to audition). After lots of work, they are a lot of fun in the end and I always enjoy the experience.

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