The Student News Site of University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma

The Trend

The Student News Site of University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma

The Trend

The Student News Site of University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma

The Trend

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Six Students Perform in Intercollegiate Honor Band

USAO’s Concert Band traveled to the annual OkMEA conference in Tulsa in January
Photo provided by Thomas Buchanan
USAO’s Concert Band, including (from left) Thomas Buchanan, Tyler Sweeden, Jaden Johnston, Lydia Wills, Kaleb Benda, Isaiah Young, and David Orgas, prepares for their performance.

Last month, several members of the USAO Concert Band represented the university at the annual Oklahoma Music Educators Association (OkMEA) conference held in Tulsa Wednesday, Jan. 17 through Thursday, Jan. 18. USAO was one of 17 universities from around the state that was represented in the conference.  

The event is multifaceted, featuring performances from ensembles made up of the best musicians in the state, showcase events for various education programs, vendors, and events honoring distinguished music educators in Oklahoma. 

The bands that perform at the conference are made up of a selected group of students that undergo numerous audition processes to be accepted into the event. There are ensembles for the elementary, high school, and collegiate levels, each prestigious to be a part of, and competitive to get into.  

The audition process for the Intercollegiate Honor Band, which the USAO students participated in, requires band directors to rank their students and submit a list of their best musicians to judges from the organization. The judges then select musicians from all the lists given to create a well-balanced ensemble, basing selections on several factors, such as instrument and academic year. 

Six USAO band members were chosen to attend from those submitted, including Lydia Wills, senior music major; Isaiah Young, senior art and music major; Jaden Johnston, junior music major; Tyler Sweeden, sophomore music major; David Orgas, sophomore music major; and Thomas Buchanan, sophomore art major. The students were accompanied by USAO’s Director Kaleb Benda. During the two event days, the group attended three rehearsals and had a concert during the second day’s afternoon. 

Wills had a highlighted part in the performance, providing vocals for the piece “Angels in the Architecture.” 

“I’ve actually never had a vocal part on a band piece before, so that was a really interesting experience. Even though I major in vocal performance, and I want to be in operas and such, I don’t have a lot of experience singing with live instruments and singing above those instruments; it’s very different getting up and singing a solo with a piano accompanying you versus an entire band of a hundred people,” Wills said. “I love getting to represent this school because we’re pretty small. A lot of people either haven’t heard of us or don’t know about our music department, but I feel like a lot of good things have been happening recently that have been turning that around.” 

The special guest conductor Allan McMurray, director of bands at the University of Colorado for 46 years, is a well renowned conductor of international acclaim. One of the pieces from his selections for the band, “American Elegy” by Frank Ticheli was commissioned directly by McMurray in response to the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, where he had taught a clinic for their band just days prior to the tragedy. This piece, paired with the Colombine Alma Mater, was an opportunity for those in the Intercollegiate Honor Band to play something emotional and meaningful that went beyond most concert performances. 

USAO’s students said they hope to return to OkMEA next year and look forward to the new experiences and connections that participating in the conference brings. 


Thomas Buchanan is a second-year art major at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.

Ray Thomas-Lapham
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About the Contributor
Thomas Buchanan, Contributing Artist
Thomas is a second-year art major  from Harrah. He is a euphonium player in the band. Thomas is an illustrator, comic strip artist, and member of the Art Club, UMA, and Ultimate Frisbee Club. His hobbies include working on his '79 Fiat X1/9 and trying to make time to actually draw.   Experience with The Trend: Contributing Artist: Aug. 2022 - present