Playing a musical piece on stage at Hays CISD’s Performing Arts Center (PAC) isn’t a new experience for Barton Middle School band students.
But for students who comprise the school’s wind ensemble, as well as its symphonic bands and a handful of alumni, the performance of a piece at their May 14 Spring Concert offered catharsis.
The piece, “Honored Guest, Going to the Sun,” commissioned by BMS Director BJ Sayger and composed by Texas State University Professor Richard Hall, paid a musical and emotional tribute to Assistant Director Dulane Aabarg, who passed away in October 2017.
Joining the school’s wind ensemble were members of the Barton symphonic band, as well as former students who worked with Aaberg. More than 120 musicians performed the piece.
“(Aaberg) didn’t have much family around, so there really wasn’t much of a memorial. So this is kind of a musical tribute to him, a musical memory. It was kind of closure for myself and a lot of other kids who were close to him,” Sayger said.
Aaberg started working for Hays CISD in 2001; he began working at BMS three years ago as the assistant director and a double reed specialist.
Aaberg had been sick for some time, even taking a break during the first semester of the school year, but his death was unexpected and heartbreaking to the school’s band community.
Soon after his death, Sayger sought a way to honor Aaberg and his contribution to the district. He chose to commission a piece in his honor, tabbing Hall to compose the score.
AJ Betrano, an 8th grade clarinet player, said it was an emotional night for her and she was nervous she might not be able to perform.
“It was actually really hard. When Mr. Sayger went up and made his big speech, I started crying,” Betrano said. “Luckily, we had a lot of rests in the beginning so I kind of got more collected, but by the end I was crying again.”
Betrano, along with fellow eighth-graders Katelyn Thurman and Megan Kelnar, were Aaberg’s beginning clarinet students and they were close to him.
“It hit home. We went over the parts in class, but it really hit home that he’s gone and in a better place,” Kelnar said. “I think the music kind of showed his personality because there were some parts that were slow and gentle, and other parts that were loud like when he was in class teaching us.”
Sayger said Aaberg had an “energy” and was funny, but could also be very quiet as well.
“We always talked about him having the best ears on staff,” Sayger said. “He could really hear and tell if something was in tune or not and then make things better. That’s one of the things we’re going to miss about him.”
Although it was under sad circumstances, Thurman enjoyed the opportunity to work with Hall, who composed the piece for the band.
“It was kind of cool to be in contact with a real life composer and person who wrote (the piece). And the story was really special behind it,” Thurman said.
The entire Barton Middle School concert, including the performance of “Honored Guest, Going to the Sun,” can be seen on the band’s Facebook page.