When Patrick O'Rourke was growing up in Bowling Green, the city school district didn't have an orchestra program.
Now, O'Rourke is the orchestra director at Bowling Green High and Junior High schools.
Those two orchestras, along with three other school musical groups in town, have been chosen to perform at this year's Kentucky Music Educators Association conference, Wednesday through Saturday in Louisville.
In addition to the two orchestras, the Bowling Green High School a cappella choir, Bowling Green Junior High School eighth-grade choir and the Briarwood Elementary School choir will perform. A send-off concert for groups will be at 5:30 p.m. today at First Baptist Church.
To apply to play at the annual conference, a group must have scored a distinguished rating at a regional KMEA festival in the spring, O'Rourke said. Then, they submit a recording and a selection committee chooses a few orchestra, choral and band groups from across the state.
It's an honor for the city school district to have so many groups chosen this year, said Maggie Blair, director of Bowling Green High's a capella choir. It shows it is a model for other music programs across the state.
"It just makes your group stand out from the crowd," Blair said. "It showcases the best of the best."
When she found out the choir was chosen to perform at the conference, she nearly started hyperventilating, she said.
"It was a fantastic feeling," Blair said.
For the group's song selections, she chose American spirituals and folk songs from other countries.
Each group has about 30 minutes to perform, which amounts to about six to eight pieces each, Blair said.
O'Rourke said he never thought both of his orchestra groups would be selected.
"When I found out, I thought, ‘OK, here's the thing that will define the school year for us,' " he said. "We've been banging out the same music since school started."
The district has had a strings program for less than 10 years, so O'Rourke sees the honor as a way to demonstrate how to build an effective program.
"I think it really speaks to the quality of our program," he said. "It shows that we have quality throughout the levels."
O'Rourke said he has great students, parents, administrators and the community behind him.
"There's no way I could do this on my own," he said.
For the conference, he chose a more traditional program than he normally would, he said.
"I always want to make sure the piece has an educational value for the students," O'Rourke said.