The Transylvania Times -

Brevard High Band Strikes Gold In New York


May 6, 2019

Earning the Gold Award at the New York International Music Festival was a worthy reward for months of intense preparation for these Brevard High School band members. (Photos courtesy of Patricia Poché of the BHS Band Association)

Members of the Brevard High School Band enjoyed a peak experience in early April, performing at the 2019 New York Invitational Music Festival in one of the world's great music venues, Carnegie Hall. This May, they will bring home an expanded version of their award-winning program for the community to enjoy.

Band director Jim Leatherwood felt this year's ensemble was well-suited to the rigors of performing in a world-class setting. Sending recordings to New York and pairing music to suit the band's strengths, he also recognized early on that parent and community support would be essential to making this unique trip.

"I knew this year's Brevard High School band would be a very special group," said Leatherwood. "To set up this special group for success in a busy spring season, I chose Robert W. Smith's First Symphony, based on Dante Alighieri's epic poem 'The Divine Comedy.' I knew we would enjoy preparing 'Inferno' and 'Ascension' for the state Music Performance Assessment (MPA), and knew they would be well-received at Carnegie Hall as well."

Students were repaid for many hours of individual and ensemble preparation as the band earned a superior rating (top honors) at MPA on March 20.

"Performing at MPA is the most rewarding event during the spring semester of band," said Jordan Wells, a junior who plays French horn. "It allows for you to show judges and other bands how well your band program performs, and an hour later receive scores and notes to help improve your performance."

Within days, the band retooled and refreshed, and was packed for New York. Again, they earned top marks with a Gold Award for their Carnegie Hall performance on April 2.

Leatherwood and his students recognize that supportive parents, and generous gifts of time and fundraising, helped them reach Carnegie Hall. One major benefit for students is gaining a new appreciation for performing at the highest level. They thought gratefully about donors and supporters who helped facilitate a memorable trip to New York.

"Playing in Carnegie Hall was an amazing experience, and I hope to play there again someday," said sophomore saxophone player Charlie Stewart.

"This band trip to New York was once-in-a-lifetime!" said Sara Megown, senior and all-state clarinet player. "The energy in Carnegie Hall when we first entered the room was breathtaking. We all experienced that amazement together - the band and Mr. Leatherwood both. The whole trip was a bonding experience for us."

Parents raised funds, including scholarship assistance for a number of students, and chaperoned the trip with Leatherwood. Band association president Patricia Poché organized the effort and had positive reports for the Board of Education, which approved the trip, and the band's supporters.

"I am so thankful for the generous support of our community which made this once in a lifetime trip possible for the students, and for the opportunity to share in this experience," said Poché. "We are all very proud of this talented group of musicians who represented Brevard High School so well. They displayed total poise and professionalism on one of the most celebrated stages in the world."

Taking their effort to another level, the band will perform the entire First Symphony by Robert Smith in two concerts this May, including a fundraiser in the new Pilot Cove Amphitheater.

"We are very motivated to complete the symphony by preparing the two remaining movements ('Purgatorio' and 'Paradiso') and performing 'The Divine Comedy' in its entirety at our spring concert. This show is one you will not want to miss!" said Leatherwood.

The official spring concert is Thursday, May 23, starting at 7 p.m. in the Jones Auditorium at Brevard High School. Concert entry is payable at the door - $5 for adult, $3 for students.

The program will feature the BHS Jazz Band and BHS Wind Ensemble, performing "Stars and Stripes Forever," with Robert W. Smith's First Symphony as the headline of the evening. Smith's work is based on Dante's "Divine Comedy" - starting with "Inferno" and "Purgatorio," climbing through "Ascension," finally ending in "heaven" with "Paradiso."

The Brevard High School Bands are also hosting a fundraiser concert at Pilot Cove Amphitheater in Pisgah Forest on Wednesday, May 29, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20, which includes admission and one entry in the raffle for two tickets to see Paul McCartney in Greenville on Thursday, May 30.

Parking is available in the upper gravel lot at The Hub and Pisgah Tavern, just outside the gate into Pisgah National Forest. A shuttle bus will provide transportation to and from the Pilot Cove Amphitheater.

Fundraiser tickets can be purchased in Brevard at Highland Books on West Main Street, and the Cup & Saucer on East Main Street. Along with hosting fundraisers, the BHS Band Association continues to seek support for making these lifetime experiences possible for students.

"Never in a million years did I think that we would get a chance to play at Carnegie Hall, yet we did and we rocked it!" said sophomore trumpet player Joysan Yatilman.

"Everything about Carnegie was absolutely breathtaking. I am thankful for the opportunity to have such an experience. Huge thank you to everyone who made this possible, and to our band parents. I can't think of a better group of people to go with. We shared waves of laughter, smiles all around and memories we will never forget."

See more photos from the trip and connect with the Blue Devil Band Association online at or call BHS at (828) 884-4103.


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