Clay Local Schools recently held its annual Night of the Arts event May 4, where art, choir and band students participated in one big showcase. This year’s event was something special for the band students, having Ohio State University band director Jon Woods as a special guest conductor. Woods has been known to lend his expertise to Clay in the past, but for some students, this is a first and only opportunity to experience being conducted by someone like Woods.
“A lot of students represented band, art and choir; this year’s Night of the Arts was fabulous,” high school band director Alice Maggard said. “Having Dr. Jon Woods come and conduct was a great experience for the students, especially for the ones that this would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Maggard went to Ohio State University for graduate school, where she had Woods as a professor for several classes. She built a friendship with him, which helped attract Woods to Clay, even with a busy schedule.
“It is a very humbling experience to have your students learn from someone that was your mentor in your career,” Maggard said. “I felt very blessed.”
On top of preparing for the Night of the Arts, the band recently participated in the Cincinnati Music Festival Competition, where six other bands participated in their class. The music they played in the competition was a few of the selections they showcased for the Night of the Arts.
“Dr. Woods listened to the music that we were going to play for the competition as well, and gave me notes on how to improve it,” Maggard said. “The contest went very well, the students were very professional, the judges gave us great review, and the entire thing had a great outcome. We placed Outstanding in their class and we had an outstanding percussion session.”
Abby Harris, three-year member of the Clay Local band, is a flautist who recently switched from percussion, and learned a lot about her new instrument from Woods.
“Dr. Woods was a very quiet man, but made the piece sound so much better once he was done with it,” Harris said. “When Mrs. Maggard conducted us, the music sounded much different than when he had us play it; Mrs. Maggard had us playing the song slower and with longer notes, but Dr. Woods changed the tempo to be a little faster and tongue the notes shorter.”
Mary Shelby, five-year member of band, is a flautist and plays auxiliary percussion. Shelby has considered attending OSU. She said she was excited to work with Woods.
“It was a great experience to get to talk with Dr. Woods and have him conduct for us; he was a great addition to our music and I am very appreciative that he could fit us into his busy schedule,” Shelby said. “Dr. Woods was very, very professional about his conducting and it’s obvious that he knows what he is doing. Mrs. Maggard helped us get our music to the level that we had it though, and she also made it possible for Dr. Woods to come. She always wants us to have the best experience possible and I really appreciate that she worked hard to get Dr. Woods here to work with us. She is just an awesome band instructor.”
Even with the band having the special guest conductor to steal the show at Clay’s annual Night of the Arts spring event, there was a lot of different art showcased and the kids still kept everyone else in mind.
“The Night of the Arts gets better each year and it’s just really great to be a part of,” longtime member of the band Taylor Swayne said.
The band also had junior high members on stage performing with the high school. Levi Nelson is one of those students and he was glad to have the chance to learn from Woods.
“Dr. Woods taught us a lot about our breathing, better ways to play, and how to read our notes faster,” Nelson said. “Dr. Woods really helped us out a lot and we were just so excited to have him here and it was an honor that he was able to come conduct us and also play with us.”