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North Eastern Instrumental Music Festival 2023

My Experience as a Participant

The North Eastern Instrumental Music Festival (NEIMF) is a four day long event spanning from Thursday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, where students from various different, small, school districts in Upstate New York and Vermont are brought together in a hotel, handed sheet music, and get to learn how to work as a group to perform those songs in front of an audience by the end of the weekend. This year, the festival took place on November 16, 17, 18, and 19th. The weekend involves a lot of extremely difficult work, both physically and mentally, however this is truly one of the best trips I have ever been able to attend.

This year was my second year participating in NEIMF and this trip allowed me to learn more about myself, my mental limits, my musical abilities, and even helped me boost my confidence as a clarinet player. Before the trip, each of the participants are given excerpts of the songs that are going to be performed during the festival and the goal is to prepare those audition experts and upon arrival on Thursday you audition for your chair in the band. With chair placement, it’s essentially a ranking system within each instrument’s section. The higher chair you receive, the better your audition was. This year I was fortunate enough to get first chair out of at least fifteen other clarinet players and I am very grateful to have had that experience. After you are given your chair placements, you are also handed the full versions of your audition excerpts, which you are expected to learn within the four days.

Throughout the festival, the other participants and I have spent a rough total of eighteen hours playing our instruments in preparation for the concert. Playing a musical instrument can sometimes look easy, however by the end of the second day, many others and I no longer had feeling in our lower lip and physically, it only went downhill from there. 

We were however given many different breaks throughout the weekend where we got to explore the town, hang out in the hotel, go out to eat, or even go bowling. Some of my favorite moments on the trip were the times that we had to ourselves. That time gave us all the opportunity to make friends with other kids who we otherwise would not have met before, and those friendships quickly evolved throughout the weekend. A prime example of this was the percussion section. On day one none of them really knew each other that well, and by day two they were all doing stretches together. By the end of the trip you would think that they knew each other for years. It’s those friendships that are made outside of school that have a stronger impact on people, and even if these kids lose touch, then those memories will always be there. In the two years that I have attended the festival I am proud to say that I myself have made those same kinds of friendships both times and I will forever cherish them.

Saturday night, all of the festival participants were able to go to Lanes and Games for the evening to bowl, play arcade games, and play laser tag with each other and our band directors. Laser tag with Mr. Barrow is definitely interesting and I would do it again in a heartbeat (even though he nearly trampled me). It’s great sometimes to be able to see some of your favorite teachers outside of school, especially in a fun environment like a bowling alley and arcade. 

The concert went really well and I loved all of the songs that our group performed. During the concert there was also a community adult band that performed as well. Listening to the adult band perform was one of the highlights for me. They sounded like true professionals, but most of those people were just average people with jobs in accounting or teaching. That just goes to show that after high school you don’t need to stop playing an instrument just because you’re no longer taking classes. There were people in that band ranging from thirty years to about eighty years old and they all have some form of love for music in common which is what makes them all work so well together. There are music organizations, community bands, and other music opportunities beyond a school’s walls that anyone can join in on if they’re interested, it doesn’t need to stop after graduation.

Overall, between the insane amount of fun myself and the rest of the Galway participants had on our down time, and the massive amount of work we accomplished during music rehearsals, I think it’s safe to conclude that not only are we insanely tired, still in some pain, and dreading the return to school the next day, but if given the opportunity to attend NEIMF again, we all would, without hesitation.

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