West York bands celebrate life with original piece

Jessica Schladebeck

Concert bands from the West York Area School District last weekend debuted an original piece dedicated to the life of the late Marlene Eyster.

The West York band practices its original arrangement "Sunrise After the Mourning Moon"

Eyster, who passed away in 2014, was the wife of longtime former band director Thomas Eyster. She served the district for 18 years, most recently as a secretary for Wallace Elementary School, and was known as the "band mom" to all the kids in the music department.

"We had a foot in creating some artwork that’s going to celebrate an actual human being, and it's something that's going to be around for a long time," said high school band director Rod Meckley.

Composing: For the past two months, the West York bands have been collaborating with composer and York College educator Jim Colonna in creating a new work for concert bands. Colonna came in on several occasions to rehearse the music and speak with each of the bands about music composition and creativity, Meckley said.

"I hope it inspires some students to give composing a try," he said. "I know it helped them see that composers are living, breathing people and not just 300 years old and dead."

Meckley said when he first told students about the original piece they responded in usual teenage fashion, with an indifferent "cool." Students then received a file of Colonna playing out the piece on piano, which they were able to use as guide when they eventually received the music.

The original piece, titled “Sunrise After the Mourning Moon,” was performed on Sunday in the new  West York Gymnasium by the high school, middle school, and elementary school bands during the Winter Festival of Winds Concert."They were able to hear it and we talked about how it was going to become their own arrangement," Meckley said. "Each step of the way, the kids realized this piece was going to be a reality."

— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at jschladebeck@yorkdispatch.com.