Augustana Band celebrates 60th anniversary with special guest


This year marked the 60th annual Band Festival at Augustana. A two-day regional event featuring high school instrumentalists from five states, the Augustana Band Festival has been a long-standing tradition at the university.


For Larry Petersen, assistant director of Bands in Music Education, this year is his first on this side of the festival. He had attended the festival before with his high school students prior to working at Augustana, and he is excited to see some of those people again.

“When I brought students here, I just enjoyed watching them work with someone else. It’s just nice for students to get exposed to someone else’s way of running rehearsals and their view on the music,” said Petersen. “So if a student made it three years in a row they could get exposed to three specific conductors because we always bring in guest conductors for the festival.”

This year, the students who participated got to work with music clinicians Eric Michael Laprade from the University of Utah, Christopher Unger and Larry Petersen from Augustana, and John Mackey, a composer who holds degrees from the Juilliard School and the Cleveland Institute of Music. 

Band Festival Chair Kelsey Stotz called Mackey a “celebrity in the band world.” The students are from small high schools, so they would never dream of getting the chance to work with a modern celebrity composer, she said. This year’s Band Festival was a great opportunity for those students to experience band concerts with elite musicians also participating.

“John Mackey has every note of the music in his head,” said Stotz. “He literally created it. So because he literally created it, he has this unique vision on it.” Understanding what the music is supposed to sound like from the person who created it is a “big thing with music nerds,” she said.

The whole band festival is run by Augustana students, this year led by senior Kelsey Stotz. Planning for the event took months, with the help of a team of 16 students. 

“The initial meeting was actually after Band Fest last year,” said Stotz. “I had a meeting with my director, who’s kind of like a mentor, Dr. Unger, through all of it.” Then, in September, she sent out a mass email to directors who wanted to participate. The application process lasted through September, and over fall break, Stotz put up the rosters for the three bands.

The three bands featured in the festival are the Honor Band, the Blue Band and the Gold Band. Christopher Unger, director of the Augustana Band, chose the students for the Honor Band based on their applications, and Stotz chose the students for the Blue Band and Gold Band.

“It’s such a long-standing tradition at Augustana to have this festival and it’s really a hallmark,” Petersen said. “Not only in our recruiting of quality musicians for our program, but just it’s a really great outreach event for us to reach out to schools and let them know what we do here at Augustana.” 

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