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Riverwatch Middle band gets elite accolade
Group awarded the John Philip Sousa Sudler Cup
Riverwatch Middle School band
The Riverwatch Middle School band was awarded the John Philip Sousa Sudler Cup for their performances in a national band competition in December. - photo by For the FCN

At a Forsyth County Board of Education meeting held Tuesday, students and teachers of the Riverwatch Middle School band program were recognized for their performance at the 71st Midwest National Band and Orchestra Clinic held in Chicago this past December.

At the 71st Midwest Clinic the Riverwatch Middle School band was awarded the John Philip Sousa Sudler Cup for their performances, an award that has not been awarded to a Georgia School since 1987.

According to the Sousa Foundation, The Sudler Cup is awarded to, “junior high school and middle school concert band programs that have demonstrated particularly significant high standards of excellence in concert activities over a period of several years.”

During the board meeting, Principal of Riverwatch Middle School Pam Bibik said that under the direction of the band director Matt Koperniak, the band had grown to include more than 600 students, making it the largest band in the state of Georgia.  

“We are so excited to be able to recognize the superb work of Riverwatch middle school’s band program,” Bibik said.

She said that at the Midwest Clinic, Koperniak was just one of 17,000 music teachers from around the world to showcase his students.

In his comments to the board, Koperniak noted how surprised they were to be invited to Midwest Clinic, stressing the numerous applications and evaluations that the school was put through.

“Last year we were notified, and we were floored because it was not anything we ever expected. And to be the first middle school from Georgia in 10 years was truly an honor,” Koperniak said.

Associate Director of Riverwatch Middle School band Dean Patterson said that the students performed 45 minutes of music at the performance. 

“We were especially excited that our students were given the opportunity to perform the world premiere of two pieces of music,” Patterson said.

“The students prepared hard, worked diligently and we are so proud of them,” Patterson said. 

Currently, the Riverwatch Middle School Band is the recipient of many awards including the 2016 National Program of Excellence Blue Ribbon Award, and have performed at the University of Georgia, The University of Alabama and have had a performance on NPR.