Arts & Culture

George Boulden Honor Band Festival brings region's best young talents to UK

George Boulden Honor Band Festival will feature a concert with UK Wind Symphony and Madison Central High School Wind Ensemble on Jan. 28, at Singletary Center for the Arts.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 24, 2023) — The 2023 George Boulden Honor Band Festival Weekend kicks off Friday, Jan. 27, featuring a public performance from the University of Kentucky Wind Symphony, presenting John Mackey’s Wine-Dark Sea Symphony for Band, the following evening at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28, at Singletary Center for the Arts. The annual Honor Band Weekend showcases the region's best young talent in two ensemble bands — the audition-only Wind Ensemble and the Concert Band, which is open to freshmen and sophomore high school students by director recommendation.  

“Participating in the UK Honor Band as a high school student really showed me what great musical opportunities UK has to offer,” said undergraduate music education student Garrett Feck. “After attending the UK Wind Symphony concert held during the honor band weekend, I was astonished by the level of musicianship within the ensemble. In the Honors Wind Ensemble, we got to play alongside members of the Wind Symphony for a combined piece, which gave us a small preview of what it would be like to be a music student at UK. After attending the honor band, I knew I not only wanted to attend UK as a music student but also a member of the Wind Symphony. I am super excited to say that I am currently experiencing both of those goals and will be playing with the UK Wind Symphony (UKWS) alongside the Honors Wind Ensemble this year.”  

The Concert Band will be guest conducted this year by Scott Rush, conductor of the Charleston Wind Symphony. The Wind Ensemble will be conducted by Rebecca Phillips, conductor at Colorado State University. 

Honor Band Weekend includes opportunities for selected high school students from around Kentucky and neighboring states to perform with their peers, as well as the chance to work with guest directors and attend masterclasses taught by the UK School of Music faculty. In addition to the performance opportunities, the students are invited to attend a final concert featuring the UK Wind Symphony and perform a combined piece with UKWS musicians at the Honors concert. 

“For well over 20 years, the late Professor George R. Boulden organized and ran the University of Kentucky Honor Band Festival, which continues to bring outstanding high school musicians to the UK campus for three days in late January,” said John Cody Birdwell, D.M.A., director of bands. “As this important event continued to grow and flourish, Professor Boulden also led the efforts to expand the event by adding a 'second band' for younger musicians, bringing the current total number of participants to approximately 250 students from several states throughout the region. This important event exists thanks to the vision set forth by George R. Boulden, and we are honored to name the festival in his memory.” 

University of Kentucky Bands will present John Mackey’s Wine-Dark Sea Symphony for Band 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28, in the Concert Hall of the Singletary Center for the Arts. Performed by the UK Wind Symphony, with John Cody Birdwell, conductor, and Patrick Forrester, graduate conductor, and James M. David, guest composer. The program will feature the Madison Central High School Wind Ensemble with David Jaggie, conductor. The UKWS program will also include "Caribana" by Omar Thomas, and "Troublesome Fire" by James M. David.

Tickets for the concert are general admission — $12 for adults and $6 for students (fees included) — and are available at the Singletary Center Ticket Office or online at  

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.