Band Olympics bring top Iowa musicians to Perry Saturday

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Honored Saturday for their longstanding commitment to the PHS Band Olympics were, clockwise from top right, Steve Cook, Brent Allen, Michelle Fagen Brecht and Kari Allen. Photo courtesy PHS Music Department

More than 1,000 student musicians from 10 schools made their way to the Perry High School gymnasium Saturday for the 35th annual Perry Band Olympics, known statewide as the Super Bowl of solo and ensemble musical contests.

In the awards ceremony that closed the competition, PHS Band Director Brad Sparks presented two plaques in special recognition of the founder of the Perry Band Olympics, Jerry Kinney, who inaugurated the event in 1984, and Steve Cook, who sustained the annual effort for 28 years.

“Jerry Kinney started the first Perry Band Olympics,” Cook said Saturday. “I was the crazy person who kept it going for 28 of the 35 years.”

Cook said he had plenty of help along the way, and he gave a shout out to those he called the “Perry Band Olympics Three Musketeers” — Brent Allen, Michelle Fagen Brecht and Kari Allen — all former PHS band members who “have been doing all the behind-the-scenes work that makes the Perry Band Olympics happen for the last 27 years.”

During the daylong competition, individual students and ensembles performed for judges arranged in 17 centers, with one center for each particular instrument or ensemble group. The students competed for the best score in each center, and PHS students were among the performers.

“Because we have a reputation for having highly respected judges from around the state, the Perry Band Olympics attracts some of the Iowa’s most talented high school band programs,” Sparks said. “Our judges provide valuable feedback to these students regarding their performances, and many schools will use this event to prepare their students for state solo and ensemble contests coming up in the spring.”

Scores were divided between two grade groups, the ninth and tenth graders and the 11th and 12th graders. The top five scores for each instrument and ensemble in the two groups were recognized in an awards program at the end of the contests.

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