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Craig Jessop, a guest conductor from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lake City, leads 80 Department of Defense Dependents Schools students Tuesday during a rehearsal of the Honors Music Festival choir in Germany.

Craig Jessop, a guest conductor from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lake City, leads 80 Department of Defense Dependents Schools students Tuesday during a rehearsal of the Honors Music Festival choir in Germany. (Jessica Inigo / S&S)

Craig Jessop, a guest conductor from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lake City, leads 80 Department of Defense Dependents Schools students Tuesday during a rehearsal of the Honors Music Festival choir in Germany.

Craig Jessop, a guest conductor from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lake City, leads 80 Department of Defense Dependents Schools students Tuesday during a rehearsal of the Honors Music Festival choir in Germany. (Jessica Inigo / S&S)

Anthony Maiello, a guest conductor from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., leads 60 Department of Defense Dependents Schools children from nine countries during the Honors Music Festival in Germany.

Anthony Maiello, a guest conductor from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., leads 60 Department of Defense Dependents Schools children from nine countries during the Honors Music Festival in Germany. (Jessica Inigo / S&S)

Shekela Dyson, 17, of London Central High School, and Quintin Strawder, 17, from Kaiserslautern American High School in Germany, rehearse Tuesday during the Honors Music Festival.

Shekela Dyson, 17, of London Central High School, and Quintin Strawder, 17, from Kaiserslautern American High School in Germany, rehearse Tuesday during the Honors Music Festival. (Jessica Inigo / S&S)

DARMSTADT, Germany — Some of the finest DODDS high school musical performers are getting some top-notch tutelage this week during the annual Honors Music Festival.

Two guest conductors trained 140 handpicked Department of Defense Dependents Schools choir and band students to perform Thursday in a professional concert hall in Wiesbaden.

Craig Jessop, director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lake City, led the 60 chorus students.

“[Jessop] is really amazing. You can see his passion. All of the instructors are always really incredible, but the guest conductor has been especially good,” said Lauren O’Gara, 18, an alto singer from Gen. H.H. Arnold High School in Wiesbaden, who has made the festival for the past four years.

Anthony Maiello, music professor and director of instrumental studies at the George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., conducted the 80-student band.

Percussionists Brandon Williamson, 15, and Mike Small, 16, both from Wiesbaden, said they appreciated Maiello’s precision and patience.

“He has a good attitude and can tell you to do something a different way or tell you you’re doing something wrong without getting you in trouble,” Small said.

This year, the two conductors selected a variety of music focusing on the students’ heritage.

“The whole program is based on American music, which I think is important with all the students so far away from home,” said Maiello during a practice break Tuesday. “It could give them comfort, in some respect, to be involved in music from their homeland. They’re not home, so to speak, but they’re closer to home through the music.”

Maiello said the musicians’ diverse backgrounds and hard work are evident in their music.

Jessop agreed, adding that these students are the “crème de la crème.”

“They’re performing at a very high level and I’m inspired by them,” said Jessop, whose four children were DODDS musicians when he was commander of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe band in the 1990s.

The festival performance is set for one of Germany’s premier concert halls. DODDS officials won’t release the location in advance for security reasons.

For more than 25 years, hundreds of DODDS musicians have sent in audition tapes for a shot at performing at the festival.

Chris Checotah, 18, a bass singer from Ramstein High School, said he applied each year for the festival and finally made it his final year. It’s the highlight of his life, he said.

“This gives these musicians the chance to sparkle and shine in a world-class hall they deserve to be in,” said Bob Benson, an Aviano (Italy) High School music teacher, of the students who came from 30 schools across Europe.

“This is an experience most high school music students will never get — to perform in a group led by conductors of such a high caliber. It’s a treat for everyone.”

For more info on concert time and location, call 0611-3807358.


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