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Bailey band invited to perform at Inauguration Festival in D.C.

July 18, 2012  

Some members of the Bailey Middle School Wind Ensemble met at the school this week. They are (from left) Avery Wohleb, Anne Marie Perny, Lilli Geen, Nicholas Barnes, Carson Lee, Josh Oens and Emily Calderon. They will perform at the Presidential Inauguration Festival.   – photo by Tony Tucci

By Tony Tucci

The Gordon A. Bailey Middle School Wind Ensemble has been invited to perform at the Presidential Inaugural Festival in January 2013 — the only band in Texas to receive such an honor.

Their challenge now is to raise the money to pay for the airfare, hotel rooms, food and other expenses for 62 band members, three directors, one principal and 12 chaperones — a cost estimated at $50,000.

Although they are middle school students, the Bailey band has won national competitions that included high school bands. It has won national awards year after year, and is considered one of the top three middle school bands in the country.

“They’re great kids, and will represent us extremely well,” said band director Bill Haehnel. “We travel all over the country once a year, and everywhere we go, the hotel staff, the restaurant workers, they’re all complimentary. And that’s due to the parents,” Haehnel said.

The band began its award-winning ways when the late Diane Gorzycki was director and Haehnel was an associate. The new Oak Hill middle school was named after Gorzycki.

“Our peers have identified us as one of the top three middle school bands in the country,” Haehnel said. He said a group called Music For All judged the band on the basis of past performances, judges’ ratings and quality of sound. “These are experienced judges and educators,” Haehnel said.

“We even got an invitation from Argentina to play in its Steel Drum Festival,” said Cynthia Bennett, a member of the Bailey Middle School Band Boosters who is helping to organize the trip. Bennett, a Shady Hollow resident, said she already has reached an agreement with Southwest Airlines to get reduced rates for the airline tickets. Southwest also agreed to waive the baggage fees so members won’t have to pay for transporting their instruments.

A wind ensemble includes woodwind, brass and percussion instruments. It differs from a marching band in that its primary function is to perform concerts.

“We reserved 80 seats, filled almost half the plane,” said Bennett.

Bennett’s daughter Emma, 13, the percussion sectional leader, said, “I think it’s great. I’m really excited.” She said when Haehnel made the announcement, the room fell silent, much to Haehnel’s surprise. “We were all speechless,” Emma said. She said she’s never been to Washington, and is looking forward to some sightseeing too.

Some band members showed up this week to meet with the Oak Hill Gazette. As many teens do, they responded to questions with one or two words. How do you feel about this honor? “It’s great.” What do you want to see in Washington? “The Smithsonian.”

“They’re such good kids. It’s wonderful,” Bennett said. She said the band members work hard, but Haehnel has the ability to get the most out of them. “Being in the band gives the kids a sense of community and family. They feel successful.”

Haehnel, who has been head director for about five years, said, “It’s not about me, it’s the kids. I’m fortunate to work with them.”

Another Booster Club member, Victoria Harkins, said the Bailey band stands out because it consistently competes against high school bands, and wins. “We were in a national competition in Atlanta last April, and we finished first,” she said. Harkins, a civil engineer who lives and offices in Shady Hollow, said she has begun contacting corporate donors. After that, local businesses will be asked to contribute, and the band is planning a Halloween festival in October.

“We have a web site, http:/www.gofundme.com/baileywindensemble, if individuals want to contribute,” Harkins said. She said all contributions are tax deductible and will be applied directly to trip expenses.


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