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Youth concert band breaks up for spring performance

The 54-member Stambaugh Youth Concert Band will play everything from opera (a piece from “The Barber of Seville”) to operatic rock (Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”) at its spring concert Tuesday.

About the only thing the concert won’t feature is all 54 musicians on stage at Stambaugh Auditorium the same time.

That’s one of the changes necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which wiped out last year’s spring concert by the band, which is made up of top high school musicians from northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania.

Michael Crist, co-director of the band along with Tyler Husosky, said breaking up the band into smaller ensembles made it easier to keep everyone safe and comply with state directives.

“We never had more than 26 students on stage at one time,” Crist said. “We also had the ballroom to work with and there’s plenty of space there, and we used the Christman Room for smaller groups … When they came in, they had their temperatures taken, they wore masks the entire time (when they weren’t playing), we’d bring them in in shifts.”

Many of the horn players had bell coverings, and to take care of the expectorant from those spit valves, the band bought “puppy pads,” normally used to potty train dogs, and cut them into smaller sizes for the musicians so they could drain their instruments onto the pad.

“I feel very fortunate we haven’t had a student that got COVID from us,” Crist said. “We had some students who had to stay home because someone in their family got it, but no one got it from us.”

Tuesday’s concert will include brass ensembles, a clarinet choir, a flute choir, a saxophone sextet and a percussion ensemble.

The senior soloist will be Justin Brown, a clarinet player who attends Mineral Ridge High school. Brown has been playing clarinet since he was 11 years old, and he’s played with the Youngstown Symphony Youth Orchestra, The Ohio State University Honors Wind Symphony, the Youngstown State University Side-by-Side Wind Ensemble and several other honors ensembles.

Crist said he believes playing in smaller ensembles challenged the musicians more.

“They had to be much more independent,” he said. “They don’t have three or four people on their part. They’re the only one on that part, so you have to put much more energy into learning the part. They need to be more confident in what they are doing and it helps them be more independent as a performer. I got a sense they really liked it.”

A limited number of tickets are being sold for the concert to watch the performance in person. Those interested also will be able to livestream the concert through Stambaugh’s Digital Concert Hall app.

If you go …

WHAT: Stambaugh Youth Concert Band and senior soloist Justin Brown, clarinet

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: Stambaugh Auditorium, 1000 Fifth Ave., Youngstown.

HOW MUCH: Tickets to watch the concert in person are $8 and are available online at stambaughauditorium.com and by calling the Stambaugh box office 330-259-0555. It also will be available to watch via Stambaugh’s Digital Concert Hall app.

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