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Pioneer musicians set sights on Nashville, Graceland

Pioneer Valley Regional School concert band members hone their skills in preperation for an April trip to the music Meccas of Nashville and Memphis, Tenn.
Recorder/David Rainville

Pioneer Valley Regional School concert band members hone their skills in preperation for an April trip to the music Meccas of Nashville and Memphis, Tenn. Recorder/David Rainville Purchase photo reprints »

NORTHFIELD — The high school band is taking its show on the road — all the way to the gates of Graceland.

The Pioneer Valley Regional School’s marching and concert bands are raising money and putting in extra practice hours as they prepare for a six-day trip to Tennessee in April.

It’s a trip that band director Nathan Holesovsky hopes they’ll remember for a lifetime.

“This is my senior year, and I can’t think of a better end to my years with the band,” said Jamie Wheeler of Northfield.

“When I look back to my high school days, these are the types of things I remember,” said Holesovsky, who fondly recalls a trip to Cleveland, Ohio, when he played in the Belchertown High School band. He later took a part-time job as band director for his alma mater. His first job as a full-time band director was at Pioneer.

The upcoming trip is another milestone for Holesovsky, as it marks his 10th year as the school’s band director.

The timing is good; Pioneer’s bands take a big trip every even year. Two years ago, they went to the Heritage Music Festival in Williamsburg, Va. The marching band won the gold, and the concert band took home silver in the 2012 competition.

Heritage Music Festivals take place annually in several locations. Holesovsky had his choice of several destinations for this year’s trip, including Las Vegas, Montreal, Canada and Disney World.

When he saw Nashville listed among the dozens of festivals, he knew it could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the students.

“I thought a lot of families may take trips to Disney, but they’re less likely to visit Tennessee,” said Holesovsky.

While Disney World has plenty of fun to offer, Nashville and Memphis are steeped in the culture of the blues, country music and good old-fashioned rock ’n’ roll.

His students, who call him simply “H,” certainly are looking forward to it.

“It will be great; the whole area is so music-oriented,” said senior Cody Celino of Bernardston.

“I’m excited; this will be my first competition as a drum major,” said sophomore Julia Wallace, of Gill.

There will be a lot of hard work leading up to the trip, though, and the kids will have to bring their A-game if they want to win.

“I’m a little nervous about the competition,” said freshman Eli Nicholson of Northfield.

When the bands get to Tennessee, they’ll compete against other high school bands in the Heritage Music Festival in Nashville, and squeeze in some sightseeing during the off hours.

The festival’s organizers offer a wide menu of student activities. The Pioneer students will have dinner and take in a show at BB King’s Blues Club, tour the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and enjoy a night of country music and line dancing during the awards banquet.

Holesovsky had some ideas of his own, too.

“Memphis is only three hours away, and I couldn’t pass up the chance to take the kids there,” he said.

Once they cross the state to the land of the Delta Blues, they’ll make a stop at Graceland to pay tribute to the late king of rock. The marching band is working to perfect a medley of Elvis Presley classics “Hound Dog,” “Love Me Tender” and “Jailhouse Rock” to play at the gates of his Memphis estate before they go on a tour.

While the marching band’s set reaches back into the 1950s, the concert band is working on some material with its roots in the Middle English Period.

“Variations on Scarborough Fair” is composer Calvin Custer’s take on the ballad perhaps made most famous by Simon and Garfunkel in 1965.

Both bands have been working hard on their selections, and will continue to do so until they board the bus for their 16-hour ride in April.

Though practice helps, it won’t get the bands all the way to Tennessee. The trip costs about $700 per student, and with 60 students, the total is around $42,000.

The school reached out to about 60 area businesses for donations, and Holesovsky said the response has been great. The students have been using a variety of fundraising techniques to lessen the cost per family.

“They’re working extra hard for it, and that will make it all the more special,” Holesovsky said.

If you would like to make a donation for the trip, you can send a check or money order to: Marching Panthers, c/o Pioneer Valley Regional School, 97 F. Sumner Turner Drive, Northfield, MA 01360.

You can reach David Rainville at: drainville@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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