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Pinckneyville MS Band Honors US Armed Forces at its Spring Concert

This year the 72-member symphonic band performance was a salute to the military and the launch of a new program, Project PASS.

The Pinckneyville Middle School Symphonic Band, lead by its band director, Roland Ventura, performed its annual Spring Concert Monday night before a large gathering of family and friends.

The band played a number of patriotic pieces to honor the men and women who have served or are serving in one of the branches of the U.S. armed forces. The middle school's JLC Color Guard Cadets presented the colors. This year's performance was held at Norcross High School.

It was also an opportunity to announce the launch of Project PASS, a new pilot program aimed at developing leadership and academic skills for middle school and high school students. Project PASS was established through a partnership between the U.S. Army and NASBE, which represents America's state and territorial boards of education.

The program, Project Partnership for All Students' Success (PASS), offers elective Junior Leadership Corps (JLC) courses, after school activities and a JROTC program to develop character and leadership with the goal of keeping students in school and improving their chances for a successful life. The Norcross cluster of schools is one of only six chosen for the new program, said Lynette Howard, Dist. 2 Commissioner for Gwinnett County.

To help commemorate the evening, Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson, conducted the band's first selection, "Cincinnatus March." Johnson's musical background includes a stint as band director at Georgia Tech. "It was a lot of fun," Johnson said after the concert.

The concert also featured four other pieces including the "Hymn to the Fallen" by John Williams which was narrated by Chad Deal, Norcross High's director of bands for Central Gwinnett High School and featured Bill Dickinson from the University of Georgia as guest soloist on trumpet.

Part of the evening included recognizing the band members who have family members that are serving their country. Gwinnett County Dist. 2 Commissioner Lynette Howard read a proclamation by the Board of Commissioners recognizing the 45 student band members with family members who have served or are serving in one of the branches of the U.S. armed forces.

An obviously proud band director, Ventura was beaming after the students' outstanding performances of five patriotic-themed arrangements and an encore piece.

"We push them to be their best," Ventura said afterwards who acknowledged the musical arrangements were challenging and at a level that even some high school bands may find challenging. "We tell them, 'don't let anyone tell you that middle school students can't do it, because you can.'"

Pinckneyville Middle School is an International Baccalaureate World School, which is a program that includes encouraging its students to create positive change in their community and the world beyond. This year, the Pinckneyville Fine Arts Department and the Junior Leadesrship Corps (JLC) of Cadets worked together to collect donations to provide care kits to American soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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