Gentry Middle School performs at sate conference

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COLUMBIA – This weekend marks the 79th Missouri Music Educators Association statewide conference, with the Gentry Middle School 8th grade band and University of Missouri Percussion Ensemble representing mid-Missouri.

Thousands of past and present teachers, students and distributors from across Missouri gather at Tan-Tar-A resort in Osage Beach to recognize the state’s top fine art achievements.  

Tim Ahern, former music educator, said MMEA is something every music ensemble strives toward.

“The purpose of having MMEA every year is to feature the best of the best, the crème of the crop, of the state,” Ahern said. “It’s a goal everyone can shoot for, large and small schools alike.”

For each division of band, choir and orchestra, educators select just the two top school groups from across the state to perform.

The 8th grade band at Gentry Middle School is the first ensemble in Gentry’s school history to perform at the state conference.

School Principal Jeff Beiswinger cited the dedication from both the students and director for this achievement.

“We’re honored to have our finest young musicians represent Columbia Public Schools,” Beiswinger said. “Their dedication to our program is evident by this opportunity.”

Gentry and MU are the only two schools in the mid-Missouri area to attend, and Ahern believes Missouri has some of the toughest competition in the Midwest.

“It is a big honor to be selected and come here to perform for an entire state of music educators,” Ahern said. “With the competition out there, there are so many great programs in the state, and everyone is vying for the chance to come here and perform.”

Gentry Middle School’s 8th grade band, directed by Amber Quest, performed in front of close to 1,000 audience members on Thursday morning. The MU Percussion Ensemble, directed by Megan Arns, takes the stage Friday, at 8:15 a.m.

Outside of ensemble performances throughout the weekend, there are also more than 100 exhibitors attending to supply sheet music, instruments and fundraising opportunities for all Missouri schools.

With fine arts programs across the country facing more budget cuts, Ahern said he thinks conferences as successful as MMEA can help keep smaller programs thriving.

“In this day, with the way the arts are treated in some areas, knowing that this still exists kind of keeps those programs alive in schools that are starting to have problems financially,” Ahern said. “Things like MMEA for choirs, bands and orchestras, having that out there, keeps those programs moving forward.”

The conference concludes on Saturday with the combined state choir, band and orchestra performances.