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Four-day music fest starts this weekend

More than 300 Florida high school band students will gather this weekend for the 28th annual Festival of the Winds, a four-day music festival sponsored by the USF School of Music.

The festival allows high school students to experience music at the college level and to perform in concert with their peers. Students arrive today for the first day of the festival. Former USF band teacher Jim Croft founded the festival and used it as a recruiting tool to attract new students to USF.

Rafael Ramirez, coordinator for Festival of the Winds, said he attended the festival while he was in high school and has been coordinating the festival for four years.

“I think it’s a great tool,” he said. “It gives high school students a chance to learn and to interact with college professors and decide if they have the dedication to stay in the program.”

Public relations coordinator Jeremy Klein said the four-day festival has been a student-run production from the beginning and has been successful every year.

Klein said the School of Music instructs high school band directors to select students and rank them based on ability, musicianship and other musical activities before submitting the list to the USF School of Music for review. After a student is accepted, sheet music is sent, so they can prepare for the audition.

When the students arrive, they audition for placement in one of three ensembles: wind, conducted by USF’s director for bands and orchestra William Wiedrich, symphony band, conducted by Herd of Thunder director Michael Robinson and concert band, conducted by associate band director at Michigan State University John Madden. Students will spend the next four days practicing for Sunday’s concert where all three bands perform together at 2 p.m. in the Special Events Center.

While attending the festival, students will attend master classes with USF music professors and attend USF ensemble performances. A workshop for band directors called “Just for Directors” will be held and discuss instrument repair, music education topics and appropriate literature for band classes.

This year, for the first time, coordinators for the Festival of the Winds have arranged for students to meet with the admissions office and to tour the campus.

Klein said the Festival of the Winds attracts students because of the stellar faculty at USF.

“The program has been successful every year, and lots of students who attended Festival of the Winds in high school are now students at USF,” Klein said.