UEA Member and Music Teacher Chris Traskal and 50+ Utica Eisenhower Students Perform in Prestigious Concert

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The school’s Wind Ensemble performs at the Michigan Music Conference on January 25 because of Traskal’s tireless efforts.

More than 50 Utica Eisenhower students who collectively comprise the school’s Wind Ensemble will participate in the 14th Annual Michigan Music Conference on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019 at 3 p.m. in Grand Rapids. Held at the DeVos Performance Hall, this roughly 45-minute performance has been made possible in large part because of the efforts of Eisenhower Director of Bands Chris Traskal.

The Michigan Music Conference is one of the most prestigious events of its kind in the U.S. The students from Utica Eisenhower will be the featured musicians at the conference’s performance. Guest conductors and a professional solo artist performing a concerto will be joining them as well.

Members of the Utica Community Schools administration will be in attendance along with hundreds of music educators from around the state. Over 50 bands from throughout Michigan auditioned for the right to perform at the conference. Entries were judged during a blind audition by a listening panel of instrumental music teachers. The Eisenhower group is the first Utica Community Schools (UCS) concert ensemble selected to perform at the annual conference.

Traskal is one of many UCS teachers that grew up as a student in the district. The Sterling Heights resident has taught music in the district for nearly 20 years. He applied to have the Eisenhower Wind Ensemble perform at the Conference back in May 2018. Once the Eisenhower group was selected, Traskal spent the summer preparing the music for the performance, and the ensemble has been practicing for the conference since September.

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“There’s a lot of moving parts to this event but we’re really proud to be a part of it,” Traskal said. “It’s a real honor because we get to perform in front of our peers and professionals whose livelihoods are tied to music.”

More than 500 people are expected to attend the event on January 25, including parents of the current Eisenhower ensemble members. The Wind Ensemble will be holding a mini-concert covering the seven pieces of work they will be performing in Grand Rapids this Thursday, Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Performance Arts Center at Eisenhower High School. This concert is free and open to the public.

Traskal works around 425–475 additional hours per year outside of the classroom as part of running his instrumental music program. For him and other music teachers in Utica, that extra, unpaid time is valuable because it gives students new and unique opportunities in the field.

“It’s going to be fun because our students are going to be treated like rock stars when we get to Grand Rapids,” Traskal said. “I’ll be honest it’s been a bit stressful but we’re ready. It’ll be a wonderful evening.”