Silliness aside, I am having a wonderful time teaching at Avon Lake High School. The students, colleagues, administration, and families are the best!
We say this to each other a lot, especially during marching band season when we spend so much time together nurturing the love of music and performance, and of course, coping with all of the ups and downs of life.
It's been awhile since I have had time to blog. There are many 50+ hour weeks for me and some even longer in the fall or when the band travels. I have no complaints. I love my students and the work that I do at Avon Lake High School. Some highlights:
Bring a parent for the parent meeting and bring your instrument. You will gather with friends, make new friends, and learn more about next year's HS band. Oh, and bring your appetite for pizza near the end of the evening!
The OMEA Large Group Adjudicated Event occurs every year in early March, this year on March 10th and 11th at Westlake HS. The Symphonic Band had a great performance, coming on the heels of two days off for the students. But the students must be credited with coming in on their first day off and rehearsing for two hours and coming for a 1 1/2 hour rehearsal early on the night that they performed. It worked. They sounded great at the contest and did a superb job in the sight-reading room! Some comments from the judges:
Very beautiful band sound.
Very Expressive. Great contrast in styles and dynamics throughout program.
Note accuracy very impressive. Rhythmic accuracy very well done.
Very impressive both technically and musically.
This ensemble performs with great sonority, tempi, and note accuracy.
Fantastic flute solo. Bravo!
Great tuba tone.
Avon Lake - a treat to hear you. Great energy!
The repertoire included: His Honor, Incantation and Dance, and Arabesque.
(October 8, 2016) - The homecoming parade was this morning. The band is proud of this year's homecoming king and queen, Nathan Plow and Tessa Lubertozzi, who play bassoon and clarinet in Symphonic Band. Nathan is also our field commander for the marching band. All of the homecoming court (but 2) are members of the band. This is the fourth year in a row that either the king or queen or both have been members of the band. Anyone else besides me think this is really great?
This year's marching band, with a total membership of 130, is having an outstanding season. The band is performing a show called "American Sketches" that audiences are raving about. The music is a mix of traditional American music that includes "My Country Tis of Thee", "Johnny Comes Marching Home", "America The Beautiful", "Sing, Sing, Sing", "Battle Hymn of the Republic", "Simple Gifts", and the "Star Spangled Banner". On October 1st at Maumee HS, the band qualified for state finals with straight superior ratings from the judges.
One of the most memorable moments of this season (so far) was on September 23rd at the football game. Avon Lake HS honored former and current members of the armed forces by bringing them onto the field while the band played "America The Beautiful". The oldest veteran was 90 years old and served at Midway during WW II. Some brought family members out onto the field with them and everyone was treated with fireworks to end the show.
As week seven of the football season comes to an end, I am thoroughly enjoying my work with the students and their families. We will be heading to state finals on November 5th and the team is probably heading to the football playoffs. I'd say we're off and running with an exciting start of the 2016-17 school year.
We are about five+ weeks away from the end of another school year here at Avon Lake High School. Things being as they are, these weeks fly by. And we are already making plans for 2016-2017! But what about this year? What has it been like?
This year has been a year of growth, excellence, and well deserved recognition for our band members, their families, and the community. The Marching Band and the Concert Band qualified for OMEA state finals this year. And of course there's our Symphonic Band that performed in Carnegie Hall. A record number of our students, more than ninety, performed in this year's solo and ensemble contest at Tri-C West in Parma. Our band parents were recognized as Ohio's "Outstanding Music Support Group" for 2015-2016 by the Ohio Music Education Association. And once again, the Avon Lake community was recognized by the NAMM Foundation as one of America's "Best Communities for Music Education".
At every grade level in instrumental music in our schools in Avon Lake, we are seeing unprecedented growth in the numbers and in the quality of our programs. This year marks the third year in a row that 5th graders have signed up to play instruments in record numbers. The current school year hit a new record with 80% of all 5th graders at Troy learning to play an instrument taught by our own Rebecca Bain and Dawn Kulikowski. At Learwood, Chris Ewald is creating new music classes and sending record numbers of his students to solo and ensemble events. Band, orchestra, and choir are thriving in our schools due to dedicated teachers and overwhelming support from our school system and our community.
As my eleventh year at Avon Lake HS comes to a close, I am honored and humbled to be a part of this school system and the Avon Lake community. I remember back to the few days after I was first hired eleven years ago, and I remarked to students and families that they should fasten their seat belts and prepare for the ride of their lives. Well, the ride has been amazing for me too as I have seen so many extraordinary students pass through this program and on to bigger and brighter things in life. I believe providing them with structured and engaging opportunities to grow musically is a big factor in their success stories. Go Band!
This is me feeling proud of the Symphonic Band's performance at Orchestra Hall in Chicago in 2013. In about three weeks, the Symphonic Band journeys to Carnegie Hall in NYC. It seems completely unreal to me. I don't know exactly what the students think about this, but to me, it is beyond my wildest dreams that I would take a group of students to perform in Carnegie Hall. We will play some really great literature that includes Malcolm Arnold's "Prelude, Siciliano and Rondo" and Lauridsen's "O Magnum Mysterium". And what's really cool is that we will play Leonard Bernstein's "Mambo" from West Side Story. The New York Philharmonic and Bernstein performed many times in Carnegie Hall and the NY Phil played a medley of Bernstein dances for Bernstein in Carnegie Hall on the eve of his debut as the new conductor of the orchestra. All the more reason for us to play Mambo and feel a connection to this legendary conductor and composer and to the iconic Carnegie Hall. I will pinch myself while we are there to be sure it's really happening and not just a dream. I can't wait until April 4th!
The season ended last night (OMEA State Marching Band Finals at Brunswick HS). The band was outstanding. They played and marched with energy and confidence. They were a team, all determined to achieve a higher level of success than any of their previous efforts. And they did.
Standing on the track during their performance (pacing, actually, because I get too nervous to stand still), I could feel the "it" factor coming from the band. What is "it"? I can't specifically say, but it's the aura that radiates from a group when everyone shares the same drive to excel beyond expectations. A shared trust, maybe a synergy, that everyone is out there giving their all to the next eight minutes. A factor that is hard to define but you just know it when you experience it.
So, a season that began last July 21st, and even earlier for the auxiliary and the percussion, comes to an end some 15 or 16 weeks later. It's a long season. There are highs and lows. There are exhausting rehearsals and joyous performances. Many life lessons learned along the way. Some members growing into strong leaders. Many learning how to be good team players and understanding sacrifice for the greater good.
It's a cast of roughly 124 band members and twelve 8th grade helpers, plus a group of dedicated teachers and instructors, and legions of parents and supporters. All focused on making the Avon Lake marching band experience the best experience ever. I am thankful for this beautiful collection of people. I have respect for their talents and I am humbled by their endless devotion of time, and energy, and love, for what we do.
The band members were reluctant to create dot books for their show this year. It all started from a suggestion from one of our instructors this fall, Dr. Andrew Machamer. He asked me if the students had ever made dot books before. When I thought about it, we hadn't asked students to create dot books for several years. The last attempt resulted in only a hand full of students completing dot books, so it didn't end up being a very effective tool. Dot books are little cards or a small spiral notebook that students put on string or a lanyard to carry with them during rehearsals on the practice field. In their dot books, they write their set number, drill formation, number of counts, measure numbers, coordinates, and any additional information pertinent to the performance of the drill that they march.
This year I required all students to complete their dot book. Most did so promptly and found it to be a useful exercise. Some resisted but eventually completed their assignment. Either way, they learned more about their show by having to study the drill charts and coordinates a bit more closely that they might have without the assignment. In the end, to me, this was a success because their confidence increased by knowing their sets better.
There was a particular student (or two or three) who began to mock me by using Forrest Gump analogies when talking about their dot books. I caught on and we all had a good laugh about it. So therein lies the Jen-nay referral, if you have seen the movie.
I have enjoyed this year's rendition of the Marching Shoremen. These students have the will, the drive, and the passion to be great. They took a big step toward greatness with their superior rating at Perkins HS that qualified the band for state finals. I am looking forward to the last few weeks of our marching band season to see what more these great students can achieve.
This a great senior class that I will miss. Their leadership, determination, and enthusiasm made this a special year and a very successful year. The picture is right after the Memorial Day Parade and it is the last official performance for the seniors. They line up in their own senior block and march from the post-parade ceremonies at Folger House back to the high school. They circled up and sang the alma mater together and then...the hugs and the pictures.
I wish nothing but the best for these seniors. They will make their marks on the world. They are smart and talented yet compassionate and aware of life's simple pleasures. They enjoyed making beautiful music together, getting to perform quality compositions during the concert season and exciting shows during marching band. This class had opportunities to perform in the Champs Bowl in Orlando and the Outback Bowl in Tampa.
Through the power of music, they will carry with them the skills that will make them successful. They have learned how to work hard individually and as a team to achieve excellence. They are ready and they are going to be just fine out there in the real world. Thanks, class of 2015, and the best to each of you!