• UpClose: Stanford University Marching Band

    Mike Lawson | August 14, 2014

    "Spreading the Love and Rocking Out"

    While the term “college marching band” instantly conjures up the image of a uniformed, synchronized unit moving with military-like precision, the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band defies that convention. Driven by a fun-loving, hard-working rock and roll ethos, the famous “scatter band” may don their school’s cardinal red and white colors (along with some black), but their attire can also vary from sport coats and pants to pajamas to casual beach attire. Their mixture of new and classic popular music, spiritedly performed whether they are at a stadium game or part of a street corner flash mob, is enhanced by members scrambling into formation and dancing or hopping to the beat. And the beat rolls ever on – they play approximately 200 rallies per year.

    The roots of the Stanford Band’s irreverence, which has included controversially humorous performance stunts over the years, can be traced back to the mid-’60s when beloved director

  • UpClose: Robbie Hanchey

    Mike Lawson | July 18, 2014

    Robbie Hanchey is breathing new life into the Valley Schools music department

    Located between the small towns of Eden (pop. 400) and Hazelton (pop. 750), Idaho’s Valley Elementary, Middle, and High Schools occupy a single K-12 campus that serves approximately 600 students who hail both from the surrounding towns and the many farms in the area. When the previous music director left in the mid-2000s, the position went vacant for several years, decimating the school’s music offerings. Other than a paraprofessional who was brought in to provide some music instruction at the elementary level, there was no band or choir available to the students until 2011, when Robbie Hanchey, fresh out of Idaho State University and eager to make a difference, was hired on to revive the defunct music department. And after three years of hard work, creative recruiting strategies, and relentless networking, Hanchey’s music department is thriving.

  • UpClose: Joni Perez

    Mike Lawson | June 18, 2014

    Inside the methods that fueled The Woodlands High School's run to the BOA Grand National Championship

    “A group can win a contest or be second or tenth or maybe not even make finals,” says Joni Perez, director of The Woodlands High School (TWHS) band program. “At the heart of it, though, the kids need to be learning what it means to be a good person through the process, along the road that leads to success.” Perez has seen an awful lot of success since taking over the head director position in the suburb just north of Houston in 2010. Since then, she’s brought concert groups to the Midwest Clinic, seen her department awarded the Sudler Shield for marching excellence, had one of her wind bands named the National Wind Bands Honor Project winner, and her marching band is the reigning Bands of America Grand National Champion, having outscored the likes of Carmel (Ind.) High School, Avon (Ind.) High School, and Marcus (Texas) High School in Indianapolis in November of 2013.

  • UpClose: Bill Allred

    Mike Lawson | May 19, 2014

    A Small-Town Band with Big-Time Ambitions

    New Mexico is the fifth largest state in the U.S. in terms of area, but has large swaths with very low population density. Near the state’s eastern border with Texas, Clovis is its seventh most populous city, with nearly 40,000 people, three junior high schools, and a single high school. For Bill Allred, director of the Clovis High School band department, these factors present some relatively unique challenges to his efforts to build and maintain a comprehensive program that can be competitive on the national stage. That’s not to say the situation is entirely bleak. On the contrary, Clovis High School has a history of excellence in its music department, evidenced by the fact that Allred is only the third director of bands at Clovis High School in the past half century. Among the program’s more recent achievements, the CHS Wildcat Marching Band has earned the title of state champion four out of the last five years, while also performing and competing with great success in festivals and competitions throughout the Southwest.

  • UpClose: Adrian Anantawan

    Mike Lawson | April 17, 2014

    Exploring strategies for more inclusive music education

    Many music educators speak about trying to engage as many students as possible in the act of music making. For children who have physical disabilities, participating in a typical instrumental ensemble can be a particularly challenging proposition. Fortunately, there is now a wide array of adaptive tools in this day and age that have been designed to assist children who have unique physical skill sets. There are also many resources out there for educators who may be unfamiliar with how to best serve these children. And more importantly, even though a disability may be an obvious way in which some children stands apart from their peers, chances are that children with special needs – mental or physical – still have many more things in common with their classmates than they do differences.

  • UpClose: Jim Sammons & Page Howell

    Mike Lawson | March 17, 2014

    The recruiting strategies that fuel the Vero Beach (Fla.) High School Band

    Located several hours north of Miami on a stretch of Eastern Florida nicknamed “the Treasure Coast,” Vero Beach is a picturesque seaside town that is home to one of the original, founding music programs in the Florida Bandmasters Association. Headed for over three decades by Jim Sammons, who was inducted into the FBA hall of fame last November, and associate director Page Howell, who has been on board for the past eight years, the Vero Beach High School band program is a model for success in a community that faces similar hurdles to many other small town school music programs throughout the country. The “Spirit of Vero Beach” includes competitive marching and concert ensembles and strives to stay on the cutting edge of musical instruction and performance, while combating challenges like a limited budget, geographic isolation, and increasing competition for students’ time from a wide range of activities available in their school and community.

  • UpClose: Karina Lindsey

    Mike Lawson | February 11, 2014

    Music With Attitude: Karina Lindsey and the Award-Winning Fowler Middle School Orchestras

    Karina Lindsey has the Fowler Middle School orchestras booming. Although the Plano, Texas school only opened in 2007, Lindsey has quickly and effectively built a thriving string program, which now features 200 children in grades 6-8 in four full heterogeneous ensembles: Beginner, Intermediate, Symphonic, and Advanced Symphonic Orchestras. Last year, the Advanced Symphonic Orchestra was named the TMEA Middle School Honor Symphony, which is no small feat considering the competition in Texas. And this year, the string section from that same ensemble again received TMEA honors, being named the “Middle School Honor Orchestra” and given an invitation to perform at the organization’s convention in San Antonio in February.

  • UpClose: Marcus Tsutakawa

    Mike Lawson | January 21, 2014

    Great Works and Fun Gigs: Marcus Tsutakawa & The Garfield Orchestra

    As far as public school music programs go, Garfield High School has something pretty special going on. Building on a legacy that stretches from notable alumni like Quincy Jones and Jimi Hendrix (who was expelled his junior year) to current hip-hop artist Macklemore, this Seattle school music department has garnered more than its fair share of acclaim. In particular, its orchestra and jazz programs stand out, both of which are consistently among the best in their respective genres at top national festivals and competitions.  Marcus Tsutakawa (known as “Mr. Tsut” to his students) has been directing the Garfield Orchestras since 1985. While many might point to the numerous trophies, awards, and accolades that ensembles have garnered under his watch, when asked about his most significant achievements, Tsutakawa is quick to mention the array of fantastic literature he’s been able to share with his students. What it boils down to, for him, is pretty simple: “My goal is to perform often, learn as much new repertoire as possible, and play fun gigs.”

  • Report: NYO-USA

    Mike Lawson | January 21, 2014

    Carnegie Hall’s National Youth Orchestra trains the USA’s most promising musical ambassadors

    Limitless potential fills the air these days at Carnegie Hall. Why? The National Youth Orchestra USA, which celebrated its inaugural season in the summer of 2013, has already established itself as a premier training and performance program for the country’s finest young musicians. And in terms of cultivating more wonderful talent, the best is yet to come.

  • UpClose: Dale Clevenger

    Mike Lawson | December 16, 2013

    “Music Is Life Itself”

    Dale Clevenger has forged a virtually incomparable career in music. Recently stepping down after nearly a half century as the principal horn for one of the world’s great institutions, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Clevenger has been the driving force behind the CSO’s brass section, widely lauded as the preeminent of its kind. In addition to being a world-renowned performer – he even had a concerto written specifically for him by iconic American composer John Williams, which was debuted with the CSO in 2003 – Clevenger has also placed a special emphasis on education throughout the years, teaching at a number of colleges and universities, as well as participating in outreach programs through the professional ensembles with which he performed.

    Now a professor of practice on the Brass Faculty at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, Clevenger devotes his time to assisting aspiring musicians to “reach for their dreams.” In a recent conversation with SBO, Clevenger looks back at some of the lessons that can be gleaned from his historic career and addresses some of the challenges facing professional ensembles, and the art form they perpetuate, going forward.

  • UpClose: Tony Cox

    Mike Lawson | November 19, 2013

    Tony Cox and the Mt. Juliet Band of Gold

    Just outside of Nashville, Tennessee, Mt. Juliet is home to a band program with big ambitions. Under the guidance of longtime band director Tony Cox, the Mt. Juliet Band of Gold drumline has been a WGI World Class Finalist for three years running, complementing a marching band and color guard that have also tasted success on the national stage. “When you go into that arena and find success, it validates a little bit of what you’re doing across the board,” says Cox.

    However, such accomplishments don’t come easy. Cox credits his administration with laying down expectations for excellence and achievement in all scholastic areas. On top of that, he points to the firm commitment and dedication it takes from students, staff, and band parents to fit in with the best, most dedicated groups from around the country.

    In this recent conversation with SBO, Tony Cox speaks about preparing music students for the national stage, maximizing parental support, and equipping the next generation of music performers and educators.

  • UpClose: David Gorham

    Mike Lawson | October 18, 2013

    Maintaining and growing a high-caliber band

    The Owasso High School Bands are a familiar name to many, having participated in such lauded events as the Tournament of Roses Parades (five times!), the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, national Bands of America competitions, and the Midwest Band & Orchestra Clinic, to name just a few. For the past 25 years, David Gorham has been running the band program at the lone high school in Owasso, a fast-growing suburb north of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Over that time, Gorham has ensured that his bands have kept pace with the area’s booming population: in a school of about 2,600, he now has over 380 students participating in the marching band and five full performing concert bands at the high school, in addition to four more concert bands at the lower levels, two each in both the seventh and eighth grades.

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