BRIDGEPORT — Multiple bands from Morgantown to Clarksburg to Grafton are fine-tuning their musical selections for the Region 10 Band Festival later this week.

The festival will be held Thursday and Friday at Bridgeport Middle and High schools, where 42 bands will perform for evaluation and assessment.

It is one of the largest regional festivals in the state. Region 10 encompasses Monongalia, Marion, Preston, Taylor and Harrison counties.

There are 2,311 musicians participating from 38 member schools. There is one visiting school from Calhoun County.

It is one of 10 regional festivals held throughout West Virginia each year. The event is sponsored by the Secondary Schools Activities Commission in conjunction with the West Virginia Bandmasters Association, according to Michael Ford, who has been the acting festival director for 29 years.

Recently retired from the Harrison County Board of Education where he served as a band director for 35 years, Ford is now the music education representative for Bandland of Clarksburg. He also serves as a Harrison County school substitute teacher.

Ford said there have been a few changes to the band festival over the years, such as the opportunity for bands to play for comments only.

“If they don’t want to know about the grade, it’s not required. These are changes not just by the SSAC but by West Virginia Bandmasters,” Ford said.

Each band attending the festival is required to perform two musical selections from the state Bandmasters Graded Music List. Selections range from grade level 1 (easiest to perform) to grade level 6 (most difficult to perform).

“By having their band perform at the festival, it gives each participating band director the opportunity to see how well his or her band is performing the basic elements of musical performance,” Ford said. “It’s kind of the WESTEST for band.”

Bands are evaluated on the finer aspects of musical performance by three very qualified adjudicators.

Each band will receive a rating of I, Superior; II, Excellent; III, Good; IV, Fair (showing obvious weakness); or V, Poor (performance which reveals much room for improvement).

Serving as professional adjudicators for Region 10 will be John P. Lynch Sr., Bob Dunkerley, Daniel B. Thomas, W. Richard Lemke, John L. Sullivan and Stephen G. Swank.

Band Directors Eric Stoneking and Chris Hayslette will host the event at their respective schools, Bridgeport Middle and High schools.

Mountaineer Middle School Concert Band Director Make Kale said he will bring approximately 108 students to the festival.

“It gives us a chance to have some outside input on how we are doing. The kids get to hear from professionals about things they are doing well and what they can improve on,” Kale said.

Last-minute preparations include going beyond the notes written on the page to make the performance really good, he added.

Mark Palmer, president of West Virginia Bandmasters Association and band director at University High School, will have two bands performing.

“We take two bands — the concert band with about 75 kids and the wind ensemble with 60 musicians in the audition-only ensemble,” Palmer said. “We have received nothing but superior in the wind ensemble since 1993 and nothing but superior for concert band eight years in a row.”

He explained that although the band festival is SSAC sanctioned, the state Bandmasters assists in that role.

“The bandmasters have been primarily responsible for setting up how bands are judged and helping to implement the festival plan. Our input is primarily used by the SSAC,” Palmer said.

Schools place so much emphasis on testing and assessment, the band festival is an ideal way for music programs to be assessed, he said.

“The quality of students and music programs can be directly assessed by these adjudicated performances throughout the state,” Palmer said. “And it’s usually a lot of fun for the kids.”

The Harrison County school board provided a laptop computer for use by the judges in this year’s festival, which Ford is very excited about.

Staff writer Darlene J. Taylor-Morgan can be reached at (304) 626-1403 or by email at dtaylor@exponent-telegram.com