By Britny Doane, Reporter
On Feb. 1-3, UNO’s Department of Music held its fifth annual BOCH Honors festival. This event is a weekend long music extravaganza that brings together four out-of-state guest conductors, 100 music teachers and about 450 hard-working, high school musicians, from Nebraska and western Iowa.
“BOCH is a play on words from J. S. Bach,” said James Saker, coordinator of the BOCH Festival. “It stands for Bands, Orchestra, Choir at the Holland Center.”
Friday and Saturday nights, the event takes place at UNO’s Strauss Performing Arts center, on Sunday, the event takes place at The Holland Performing Arts Center.
Saker briefly explained the idea that jumpstarted this event.
“[The] BOCH festival began five years ago in 2009,” Saker explained. “Before this event, we had separate band, orchestra and choir honors festivals. When the Holland Center first opened, the UNO wind and jazz ensembles were invited to perform. After that, I wanted to find a way to have the honors festivals held in that amazing auditorium. It was perfect!”
The process for organizing guest conductors is probably the most challenging task.
“Dr. Harden [choral director at UNO] chose the guest choral conductor. I chose the Orchestra conductor. Dr. Snyder and I helped choose the wind conductor,” Saker said. “We look for people with an outstanding reputation of being a great conductor and working with students.”
This year’s guest conductors were Amy Acklin, Jennifer Boomgaarden, Heather J. Buchanan and Dwayne Sagen. Acklin [guest band conductor] serves as the associate director of bands and the director of the Cardinal marching band at the University of Louisville.
Acklin taught instrumental music in the California public schools for six years. She is an active conductor, clinician and adjudicator.
Guest orchestra conductor Boomgaarden is originally from Minnesota and graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, with a Bachelor of Arts in trumpet performance.
She completed her master of music degree in instrumental conducting at Northern Arizona University. Her passion for music developed early and served as principal conductor of the Flagstaff Youth Orchestra before moving to Omaha to accept a position as associate conductor of the Omaha Area Youth Orchestra.
Guest choral conductor Buchanan is the associate professor of music and director of choral activities at Montclair State University. Choirs under her direction have won critical acclaim for their “heartfelt conviction,” “vibrant sound,” and for singing with the “crispness and dexterity of a professional choir.”
Guest band conductor Sagen has served as the director of bands at Vanderbilt University since 1986. He is also a frequent guest conductor, clinician and adjudicator at concert and marching band festivals all over the United States and Canada.
He also served as a guest conductor for numerous All-State band festivals.
“We start planning for next year’s program, next week,” Saker said. “We have brought in some of the finest music educators to UNO. Giving faculty and high school students exposure to our faculty and musicians in both inspiring and motivational. This is the main reason why we hold the festival.”
It takes all year for the music department to make this festival work in an organized, professional, exciting and fun manner for all students, guest conductors and high school directors.