The cream of the instrumental crop left early this morning for the two-day Northwest Colorado High School Honor Band festival in Aspen.
Ken Crombie, band director at Steamboat Springs High School and Middle School, said 120 students from 20 regional high schools will participate in the festival, which includes rehearsals, auditions for first and second chairs and a concert Saturday evening.
"It's one of the things we look forward to every year," he said. "It gives the kids a chance to come together in a big, 120-piece band with some of the best players in the state."
Fifteen of those students are from Steamboat Springs, a tally that Crombie said is higher than any other participating school. Four Soroco High School students and one Hayden High School student also were selected to participate in the festival.
"I think it's one of the biggest honor bands we've ever seen and one of the best -- most of these kids are juniors and seniors," he said.
Honor band members were chosen at a meeting last month of band directors from the 20 schools in Northwest Colorado, Crombie said. Directors nominated students from their schools and collaboratively whittled the list to 120.
At the concert Saturday night, the band will play six pieces, including the Marine anthem "Semper Fidelis." The show will end with a bang, Crombie said.
The concluding "Star of Dreams" contains a stampede section, for which the band will place percussion instruments throughout the audience and leave the stage to play amid the listeners. Crombie called it a "huge, incredibly intense piece of music," which is especially meaningful for his students.
"My kids have performed the piece before in concert and are thrilled to play it again," he said. "They haven't stopped talking about it in three years."
Crombie commended violinist and Steamboat student Renee Stady, who was selected for the Aspen festival but is performing in the top chamber of the Western State Honor Orchestra instead.