Berry Wind Ensemble goes to GMEA

Abigail Dunagan, Campus Carrier asst. arts and living editor

Over the weekend of January 27, the Berry College Wind Ensemble performed a concert at Georgia Music Educators Association (GMEA). GMEA is the state of Georgia’s affiliation with the National Association for Music Education. This was the first time in history that the Berry College Wind Ensemble attended the annual convention.

Brilynn Giddens is a sophomore bass clarinet player. She has been playing base clarinet since sixth grade, and she recently started playing contrabass this year. Giddens became interested in playing clarinet in sixth grade, when she joined band to hang out with her friends. Giddens took a short break from band during high school, and she just started back in band this year and joined the Berry Wind Ensemble.

“GMEA is a music conference where a bunch of different bands play,” Giddens said. “Middle school, high school, and college bands will all come and listen to get ideas for music pieces. You have to be invited, so it is a big deal if you are invited to play there.” 

GMEA is a very prestigious event. Giddens said that two guest conductors accompanied wind ensemble, along with a guest performer who attended to play solos. For the band to attend GMEA, several months of practice were required. GMEA is the fourth largest membership of any state music association in the United States. 

“We have been practicing music since the beginning of the year,” Giddens said. “We’ve been playing some of the same songs since August to get ready.” 

The majority of GMEA concert attendees are music directors from other schools. The concert hall seats around 2000 people. According to Giddens, attending was a lot of fun and was an interesting and unique experience. 

Sophomore Jasmine McDonald has been playing the French horn for around five years. She became interested in learning to play French horn in middle school after joining band to spend time with friends. She has been in band for roughly ten years, and she joined Wind Ensemble as a freshman at Berry. Over the past few years, Berry has had other departments, such as chorus, attend GMEA. 

“This is the first time that Wind Ensemble has gone to GMEA. It was a really cool experience because we were making history in a way,” McDonald said. “For Berry, this shows that we are becoming more widespread in the music world.” 

GMEA was founded in 1938, and since then it has been a well-respected music conference for a variety of schools and music groups. The conference serves for the betterment of music education. The yearly conference is held in Athens, Georgia. The GMEA conference is an opportunity for schools around Georgia to showcase music programs and abilities. 

The goal of GMEA is to promote music education in the state of Georgia. For school groups, GMEA provides concert and solo evaluations for students from all schools in the state of Georgia. GMEA also advocates for funding in school programs across the state. The convention serves to improve the quality of music education across the state and to spread music education to a wider audience. 

Junior percussionist Caspian Beard has been playing percussion for seven years. He became interested in the instrument after watching the drummer at his church. Beard states that aside from the extra practices, the most difficult part of attending GMEA was the traveling. The conference is held in Athens, so the band took the entire day to travel, perform, and return to Berry that evening.

“It was a really cool opportunity, but it was a very long process,” said Beard. “We had extended practices on weekends, and longer practices during the week leading up to the concert.” 

As of 2023, Georgia Music Educators Association consists of approximately 3,000 members. These memberships are elementary, middle, and high school bands as well as college bands. The program also offers memberships for college students majoring in music or music education. 

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