Stambaugh Auditorium is no stranger to beautiful music. It has played host to some of the greatest musicians of our time.
Very soon, Stambaugh will welcome a group of great musicians with a very young and local flair.
"We've felt for some time that we needed a band that represented the auditorium," said Barbara Armstrong, Stambaugh general manager. "We thought it should be young people."
Early this year, Stambaugh received a state grant to develop an honors band program.
High school musicians were chosen and practiced once a week at YSU. In February, they performed at Stambaugh Auditorium.
That was to be the end of the program. The grant was for one concert.
Idea: But two "savvy and experienced gentlemen," as Armstrong referred to them, had a bigger vision.
Tom Groth, retired Boardman band director of 30 years, and Dr. Stephen Gage, director of bands at Youngstown State University, approached Armstrong with the idea of making the program a yearlong event.
"We were really excited about it," Armstrong said.
"Serious young musicians need to have an outlet to compare themselves to others. They should have the opportunity to play together and see how good they can sound," Armstrong explained, noting that Cleveland is the closest location a student must go to be a part of an honors band.
Groth echoed Armstrong's sentiments.
"I am really excited to give these students the opportunity take a step up from what they are getting in high school. This program will take them to the next level," Groth said. "And they can take that back to their schools."
Groth will be acting as the executive director for the program. He is seeking funding for the program through various grants and foundations.
"We would like to set up a youth music foundation," Groth explained. "Ultimately, we would like to have scholarships."
Getting started: "We will need help to get it going," Armstrong said. Risers, music stands and several instruments have been bought with money already available.
"Ideally this program will someday attract underwriting that will enable it to become somewhat self-sufficient," she wrote in the Stambaugh newsletter.
Gage will direct the Henry H. Stambaugh Wind Orchestra.
"The potential of a group like this is unbelievable," Gage says excitedly. "It is a wonderful opportunity for young people to sit down with one another and make music."
Groth encourages all interested musicians to audition. "All kids should have a chance," he said, adding that simply auditioning is good experience.
"If they are not chosen, they will have a better understanding of the level of play they need to be at," he explained. "They can take a year to work harder."
Information about the auditions was sent to more than 100 high schools in Northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania.
From the many that will audition on September 25 and October 2, 100 young people will be chosen.
Indeed, it will be an honor for a student to be selected.
Beautiful venue: Groth recognizes an added bonus for the young musicians.
"Stambaugh Auditorium is a grand place," he said, seeming to hear music in his mind. "To perform here, on stage ..." His voice trailed off as he was unable to find the right words to describe the privilege.
"In all the auditoriums I have visited, I can think of only one better place," Groth said, laughing. "It's in New York City, up by Central Park -- called Carnegie Hall."
Armstrong is thrilled with the opportunity Stambaugh can provide these students and the cultural addition it presents to our community.
"This is going to be extraordinary," she said.
XFor audition information or to provide funding assistance for the honors band, call Groth at (330) 533-6761.