USA Wind Ensemble Performs Welcome Concert for All-State Festival

Article and photo by: Milena Mata | Contributor |

Honorable musicians collaborated with the USA Wind Ensemble to perform a welcoming concert for the All-State Festival for the first time in six years at the Saenger Theater on April 8.

The concert was only one hour long, but it was packed with several performances to honor the high school participants of the All-State Festival and the city of Mobile.

The All-State Festival is an annual event for high school band students across Alabama. The All-State competition was created by the Alabama Bandmasters Association (ABA). This year Mobile hosted the event. The USA Wind Ensemble performed for the All-State Festival in 2015 and 2016 before this year. 

People of all ages arrived to the concert in support of the Wind Ensemble and the festival. The Wind Ensemble consists of woodwind, brass and percussion instruments. 

The featured musicians united Mobile and the ABA to make the concert special. Drew Pritchard was a guest who played the trumpet for Kevin McKee’s Centennial Horizon. Pritchard is an alumnus of the University of South Alabama who graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor’s in Music Performance. He is currently in the Air Force Band of Mid America. 

Another guest was USA assistant professor Dr. Kip Franklin who played the clarinet, a key instrument in a composition entitled Concerto for Clarinet by Artie Shaw. 

Dr. Greg Gruner was the guest conductor of the night. He served as chair of the department of music at South until his retirement in 2018. He conducted a piece by Sir Malcolm Arnold entitled Peterloo Overture.

Faculty members Dr. Andra Bohnet and Dr. Robert Holm also made appearances playing the harp and piano, respectively. 

ABA President Joel Henson awarded Dr. William Peterson with a plaque for his hard work with the association and the All-State Festival. Dr. William Peterson keeps himself occupied with the various contributions he makes at South. He is the director of bands, associate professor of music, conductor of the Wind Ensemble and more.

“Dr. Peterson has been a longtime friend of Alabama Bandmasters Association as well as the University of South Alabama have been longtime supporters of our association through hosting our solo festival competitions,” Henson said. “Performances like these do not happen without hard work and dedication by these outstanding students on stage and also outstanding teachers and conductors. We are commemorating this outstanding performance tonight.”

Each piece was followed by a large applause from the audience and the concert ended with a standing ovation.