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SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

14th annual CSU Pueblo Festival of Winds slated for February

The Festival of Winds is scheduled to return for its 14th year in February. The annual celebration welcomes high school musicians from across the country. [Courtesy photo/Dr. Alan Mills/CSU Pueblo Music Department]

By Noelle Redmond
The Today

Excitement is beginning to buzz throughout CSU Pueblo’s music department, with the upcoming Festival of the Winds program on the rise. In sitting down with Dr. Alan Mills, director of bands and professor of music at CSU Pueblo, it became clear that preparations are already in full swing, with less than a month until the festival.

It’s a unique event, and one that, as Mills recounted, has a lot of moving pieces. It brings more and more band kids from across the country to perform together, and learn from other directors and students.

This year marks the 14th year of the Festival of the Winds, having begun in the Spring of 2009 and expanded over time. Mills arrived at CSU Pueblo the 2008-2009 school year and started the first festival. He could still clearly remember being the only conductor for a student turnout of 110. 

From there, things only began to expand.

Where, in the beginning, only one honor band was present, a second was added the next year due to such a strong turnout. Then down the line three were added. And now, for six strong years, four bands are being offered to the mass number of high school students; two of the bands being symphonics and the other two are wind orchestras. Students are recommended and accepted to attend; however, they must complete an audition to be placed amongst the four bands.

“And what that amounts to is that we are the largest high school honor band event in the state of Colorado,” Mills fondly said.

With the expansion of the festival, CSU Pueblo began outreach to schools nationally. This called on more guest directors and composers to join, as well as growing submission numbers. Mills said 46 schools made 478 recommendations for this year’s festival, resulting in about 360 students being accepted.

This year’s honor band guest directors consist of Dr. Shelby R. Chipman, director of bands Florida A&M University; Dr. Karen Fannin, director of bands University of Nebraska at Omaha; Dr. Sean P. Murray, director of bands University of Alabama at Birmingham; and Dr. Brian T. Wolfe, assistant director of Athletic Bands University of Oklahoma.

Student musicians rehearse during a prior Festival of Winds. The three-day event is slated to return for its 14th year in February. [Courtesy photo/Dr. Alan Mills/CSU Pueblo Music Department]
As the festival grew over the years, so did the values and philosophies … and, most importantly, the opportunities for students. With the program, students are recommended by their directors to participate in the festival. This empowers directors to hand pick students they believe should get the opportunity to attend.

With that in mind, it fuels the philosophy Mills talked highly of: “There are great students in every school.” 

Another unique side of the festival is the Rocky Mountain Commissioning Project that Mills created in his first year of teaching at CSU Pueblo. Essentially the consortium is used as a way to hire composers to come and write a new piece of music that the university wind ensemble will premiere. This in turn allows festival students the chance to work with and learn from the living composer.

“It’s not just the name on the top of the page, there’s really meaning behind it,” Mills explained.

Participating bands in the festival also get the rights to play the composer’s music for a year. This year they will be performing existing and new pieces by Mark J. Connor from Creve Coeur, Missouri, and by Steve Danyew from Rochester, New York. Each composer will write unique songs for the bands.

​​“Music is a part of the human condition.”
Dr. Alan Mills, CSU Pueblo director of bands

The festival serves as a recruiting tool for not only the music department, but the campus as well. When the high school seniors audition their way into one of the wind orchestra bands, they get an automatic music scholarship to study at CSU Pueblo.

With this also comes the high school students participating in the festival to decide on attending CSU Pueblo and seeing their friends and band members from high school come back through once more. Furthermore, Mills talked of some past music education majors graduating and bringing their future bands back through for the festival.

Looking at this year’s festival, it lends itself to being bigger in some sense and just as richly packed with educational events as other years. For example, due to the unfortunate COVID-19 circumstances, the full festival couldn’t be hosted last year and instead an online solo contest was held, where students submitted digital auditions. As a result, the selected summer finalists are set to perform on stage with their solos for the festival. The soloists will also receive cash prizes.

Music is a part of the human condition,” Mills said. He said people are unfulfilled without music in their lives, and is more than overjoyed about this year’s festival being in person.

The festival consists of many concerts and performances, all of which are free to the public, with the exception of the final concert, featuring the honor band. All performances throughout the festival will take place in Hoag Hall, except the last one which will take place at Memorial Hall in downtown Pueblo, due to the large band size.

Check it out:
For more information on the Festival of Winds, click here

This year’s concert series will include the Colorado Spring Christian School Wind Ensemble, the United States Air Force Academy Falconaires Jazz Ensemble, the Top of the Hill Band; featuring the participating band directors, the CSU Pueblo Jazz Ensemble, the Pikes Peak Brass Band, the CSU Pueblo Wind Ensemble and the Honor Bands Finalé Concert that features participating high school students.

Needless to say, it’s clear this three-day event will start off with a bang in the coming weeks, as masses of talent come together across the nation to showcase their strengths.

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