On Monday the sound of music could be heard drifting through the halls of Woodbury High School.

WHS was home to the 11th-annual Suburban East Conference Music Festival on Feb. 7.

"The students are all excited to be able to welcome people," WHS band director Brent Comeau said. "They have a sense of pride that it's in our house."

The music festival was such a large event that WHS students were given the day off.

The SEC Music Festival brought 10 high schools -- WHS, East Ridge, Park, Cretin Derham Hall, Forest Lake, Hastings, Mounds View, Roseville Area, Stillwater Area and White Bear Lake -- together to perform and to learn. The band, choir and orchestra ensembles all performed during the festival.

"The festival is not a competition, it's a festival -- it's all in good fun and camaraderie," Comeau said. "It's a learning experience for the kids being able to listen to each other at this really high music-making level -- it's just a fantastic day."

The SEC Music Festival was broken into three components. The morning had each of the music ensembles, from all 10 high schools, perform for their peers, which was then followed by clinics with professional musicians.

During the individual performances, the students in the audience critique their fellow musicians.

The day concluded with the grand finale performance, which saw the all-conference musicians, from all schools, come together for a final performance. The all-conference band, orchestra and choirs performed together on stage.

"The festival allows our student musicians to get together, hang out together and make music together," Comeau said. "The students grow incredibly as musicians and as performers."

Performing for their peers

Comeau said participating in the SEC Music Festival provides so many benefits for student musicians, but the primary benefit is being able to learn from their peers.

"Coming together to perform for each other, it gives them a goal something to drive for and to work hard to get ready for," Comeau said. "It's so good for the students' ear to hear other groups that can play in tune, other groups that can sing with emotion."

Comeau said allowing students to perform for their peers also helps them in the long run since they are performing for fellow musicians, who know the difference between good and bad, and can help critique them.

"The kids know when they go to their spring band concert, the hall is going to be completely full of 700 band parents and they could play a hundred wrong notes and play terribly out of tune, but they will still get a round of applause and a standing ovations," Comeau said.

"But when they are playing for fellow musicians, people who are in the same shoes they are, the pressure is a little higher, the performance anxiety can build a little bit."

Different interpretations

Even though the SEC Music Festival allows students to listen to their peers, the various music directors are also able to admire their colleagues.

Comeau said he really enjoys being able to watch the band performances in order to increase his repertoire.

"There's always a new song that someone has found that is a good teaching tool," he said. "There's always a new way to do an old standard."

Senior Natalya Thakaur, who plays the clarinet, said the music festival was a really fun day.

"It's really interesting to see what everyone else is up to," she said. "It's nice to see what other types of music are out there."

Comeau said another element of the SEC Music Festival that is exciting, and educational, for his musicians and himself is seeing the differences between the individual music ensembles.

Every music group is a reflection of the director, Comeau said.

"If you go listen to those 10 choirs or bands, you are going to hear 10 very different sounds," he said. "It doesn't matter the repertoire that they're playing, you're going to hear 10 uniquely different sounds -- you get to hear all of these different interpretations of the same thing."