For a few days this week, the halls of the Haines School are filled with music. Around 150 students from ten schools throughout the region are in town for the Southeast Alaska Honor Music Festival.

The school sounds a little different today. The normal chatter of students in the halls is met with music. A string ensemble, choir, and a full band practice separately in different parts of the school.

“These are the best students from the region,” says Jason Muccino, the Music Director for grades 5-12 in Haines. He’s also running this year’s Honor Music Festival. The three-day event brings high school student musicians from around Southeast together to perform as one group.

“It’s a great experience because first of all the kids don’t all know each other, and they’re getting to perform with other students who are doing the same thing in their own schools but now they’re getting to do it together, so there’s a social end of it,” says Muccino.

But, Muccino says that’s not all that’s new for the students.

“They’re also working with conductors that they’re not familiar with so they’re getting different experiences, different learning experiences,” says Muccino.

The festival is a pretty exclusive event. Students have to go through an audition process and be selected to take part. From Haines, 14 students were chosen.

“Students need to make CDs,” says Muccinio. “Each director brings those CDs to a meeting that’s held at the end of September. And the directors all meet and select the groups.”

The gym is doubling as a rehearsal space and lodging. The band plays there during the day, and students sleep there are night. Half of the room is filled with luggage, blankets, even a few air mattresses. The other half, chairs, music stands, and instruments. Christopher Lujan is a junior from Juneau. He is performing as a Tenor II in the choir, and this is his third year taking part in the festival.

“I believe our conductor has picked very good pieces that challenge you to a point where you have to think about what you’re singing and you have to combine it all together,” says Lujan. “Since we’re all coming from different locations with different amounts of preparation it’s cool to see it all come together.”

He says being chosen to participate really is an honor.

“Nothing can compare,” says Lujan. “I mean I love the music, love the people who are here. I like meeting new people and interacting.”

But taking part in the festival means a long three days of rehearsing and performing.

“We’ve got about six hours of rehearsals yesterday, about nine hours today, another couple hours tomorrow,” says Muccino. “And then by our dress rehearsal in the afternoon it’s all going to come together.”

Alexandra Bless is a senior at Petersburg High School. She plays the clarinet in the band and this is her third year participating.

“I guess I’ve gotten more experience doing it, I’m used to the long practices, but I still enjoy it as much as I did the first time,” says Bless.

She’s in the gym with Jasmine Ieremia, a Junior from Petersburg who is taking part in the choir for the first time as an Alto I.

“I’ve never sang in choirs outside of our Petersburg choir,” says Ieremia. “I think it’s really neat to come here and everyone is invested in choir.”

Muccino says so far, the music festival is going well.

“I think you can hear in the background we have great music going on, everyone’s enjoying it, the kids are a bit tired, especially the ones travelling from South,” says Muccino. “But I think everyone’s having a great time, there’s lots of smiles. They slept in the school last night so they’re a little bit weary from that. It’s hard work, but it’s a lot of fun.”

The sound of the strings, choir, and band come together as students rehearse in Haines, and it’s all in preparation for one concert, combining the music and skills of students around Southeast.