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Band Directors

  • All Jazzed Up with Nowhere to Go

    Mike Lawson | December 9, 2014

    Directors Really Do Make a Difference

    The year was 1982 and I was a high school sophomore. I had been playing guitar since I was nine years old, almost entirely self-taught. I didn’t really read notation. I understood rests, repeats, basic things like time signatures, and the difference between a treble and bass clef, but the ebony notes dancing along the staff were a mystery to me. I could, however, read guitar chord charts, and if I could hear a song played while looking at a chord chart, I could generally tackle it within one or two passes.

    The one thing that made me eager to start my sophomore year was the opportunity to audition for the jazz band. Jazz band was typically reserved for juniors and seniors. I knew the band director wanted a guitarist, but the odds of a sophomore passing the audition were dreadfully slim. I’d asked around and learned that there were no other guitarists in the high school who were interested in playing in jazz band, let alone capable of passing the audition. I contacted the band director and arranged for an audition before school started, and to my delight, I passed it.

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  • 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.

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