PHOENIXVILLE - Phantom musicians once again were awarded top honors, this time on a national level.

The Phoenixville Area High School Band competed against bands and ensembles from high schools across the United States on Saturday, May 1, during the Heritage Festival Band Competition in Orlando, Florida.

The band brought home four Gold ratings on Sunday evening. Only five groups at the festival performed at this high level, and four of those five groups were Phantom musicians.

The competition was held at the Dr. Phillips High School for the Performing Arts in Orlando which hosted performances by the school's Symphonic Band, the Wind Ensemble, the Jazz Band and the Percussion Ensemble. All four groups were awarded Gold ratings, meaning they scored over 90 out of 100 possible points.

Ninety-four students flew to Orlando in two planes and enjoyed both Disney World and Universal Studios.

Brian Giebler was thrilled to participate against bands from Alaska, Texas and several other states.

Jessica Weyer participated with all four Gold Star performers. She plays the French Horn, trumpet, Auto Horn, and percussion instruments.

"It was a fantastic way to get the name of the high school and town presented across the country," said Weyer. "Now people from other towns respect us."

Weyer spoke about the impact of band director Mike Britcher.

"It's really great to know him because he is tough with us, but he isn't rude," said Weyer. "He really knows how to work with the band and get the best sound."

Tom Pilcicki is a member of the Jazz Band, Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble. He said that Phantom musicians are "one big happy family."

"We're always together," he said. "You really get to know people."

Britcher deflected the praise.

"The relationship between band students and a band director is very different one than students have with most teachers," said Britcher. "It stems from the fact that we spend so much time together.

"(Music Education) means a great deal to students because they're giving up their time to participate," said Britcher. "It's also important to staff who are giving up their time to work with students. I look at the band as kindred spirits. We share common interests."

The four-year veteran band director addressed the impact of graduating seniors.

"I always have to keep in the back of my mind that students will graduate," said Britcher. "It's harder with this year's senior class because of their leadership and musicianship."

Several of the graduating Phantom seniors plan to major in music at the college level.

"It is gratifying to see that what is important to me is what they want to continue to do and make their life's work," said Britcher.

As a result of their gold medal status, the Wind Ensemble, the Symphonic Band and the Percussion Ensemble have been invited to participate in an upcoming Heritage Festival of Gold (Jazz bands are not invited).

The Phoenixville Jazz Band was named the Outstanding Instrumental Group for the entire competition.

Scores were determined by averaging the scores of three judges, A Professor of Music at Florida State University, another Professor of Music from the University of El Paso and the Orchestra Director at the Dr. Phillips High School for Performing Arts judged the competition.

The community will have the opportunity to hear all of these groups in concert this month. The Wind Ensemble, Jazz Band and Percussion Ensemble will present their Spring Concert on Thursday May 6, at 7 p.m. at the High School. On May 27, the Concert Band and Symphonic Band will perform at the High School beginning at 7:30 p.m. The Wind Ensemble will also be performing as part of the opening ceremonies for the Relay for Life of Phoenixville on May 21.

John Keenan contributed to this article.

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