Joy of music lingers after state seminar


Robert W. Smith conducts the Indiana Honor Concert Band at the Embassy Theatre in Fort Wayne. The Jan. 13 performance was part of an Indiana Music Education Association conference.

An estimated 5,000 music students, teachers and admirers from throughout Indiana converged on Fort Wayne Jan. 11-13 for the Indiana Music Education Association Professional Development Conference.

More than two dozen free concerts were offered at four venues over two days as the IMEA came to the Summit City for the eighth consecutive year.

Music lovers braved the weather Jan. 13 to pack the Embassy Theatre. They watched as composer Robert W. Smith conducted the Indiana Honor Concert Band.

Homestead High School senior Natalee Nichols sat front and center, playing flute and alto flute. “It made it easier for me to make eye contact with the director,” Nichols said.

Four Homestead musicians qualified to play or as alternates. From northeast Indiana, East Noble, Huntington North, New Haven, Northrop, Norwell and Wayne high schools also qualified musicians for the 94 seats and 30 alternates.

“It was a big honor to be accepted and very humbling to be part of this band,” Nichols said. “It is nice to have your hard work be recognized. I met a lot of new people and it helped me to broaden my horizons.”

The audience heard works by John Philip Sousa, by John Pasternak and by the guest conductor. They also watched as Indiana Education Association President Chris Taylor presented the Music Educator of the Year award to Paoli High School band instructor Bill Laughlin.

Twelve Concordia Lutheran High School students qualified for the All-State Honor Choir, which performed the final concert of the conference. Bishop Dwenger High School also was represented.

At First Presbyterian Church, the All-State Handbell Choir marked its first ever performance. About 40 people listened as Valparaiso University director of music education Jeff Doebler directed. Eight students qualified from Floyd Central High School in Floyds Knobs, and two from North Central High School in Indianapolis. VU intern Katherine Matthews also played for the concert.

Doebler explained the various techniques demonstrated in handbells. He said handbells serve as a laboratory for learning music. He said he hopes the state handbell choir will inspire other schools to add handbell classes and other states to add handbell festivals.

Homestead High School in Fort Wayne is ready to take that step. Band director Brad Wadkins and handbell director Shannon Hardiek attended the IMEA handbell concert.

Hardiek helped to introduce handbells to Homestead in fall marching band. She now instructs an ensemble of about 20 students for an hour and a half after school one day each week. The ensemble ranges from freshmen to seniors. “And it doesn’t matter to me that they’re seniors and they’re going to be graduating. It’s a good mix of kids,” Hardiek said.

The ensemble plays many styles and levels of music and is learning different techniques. The first goal is to incorporate handbells into the spring concert with the band and jazz band and orchestra.

“Ultimately we’d like to progress enough to have some members in the IMEA handbell choir, which I think we could do next year just to give them some different experiences,” Hardiek said. “My hope is that eventually we can attend some Handbell Musicians of America conventions and give them that kind of exposure.”

“I feel that there are very few schools as opposed to churches that have a handbell program and thanks to Mr. Wadkins’ support we were able to start one,” she said. “I’m anxious to see where this goes. The kids are super excited about it. It’s going to be very neat.”

Hardiek has been ringing handbells for 32 years. This is her first formal teaching assignment.

“It’s very exciting to have this opportunity for the students, to let them experience an extension of our instrumental music program at Homestead,” Wadkins said. He said other schools also are looking at handbell programs.

“So it’s a neat opportunity and I’m glad Shannon came to us with the idea and it all worked out,” Wadkins said. “It’s nice to have somebody who has that knowledge and that experience to put in front of the kids so they’re getting correct training through that portion of instrumental music.”

The IMEA offers Circle the State with Song and other music programs throughout the year. Learn more at