Blaine school bands receive high honors at festival

Published on Thu, Jun 16, 2011 by Linda Hughes

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The Blaine middle school bands performed last month at the San Juan Music Educators Large Group Festival in Anacortes. Band director Bob Gray has been attending the event for 30 years, and his seventh-grade and eighth-grade bands both received superior ratings.

Blaine’s got music! Two buses, 115 students, 10 chaperones, one teacher and four adjudicators came together at Anacortes High School for the middle school segment of the San Juan Music Educators Large Group Festival last month.

This is the 30th year Blaine’s band director Bob Gray has been attending the event, which, according to records of the Washington Music Educators Association, has been ongoing since 1944.

Although it once was a competition, this festival is now an opportunity for bands to perform before other schools in the San Juan region, one of 22 regions in the state, and interact with music directors from other schools. It was a wonderful learning experience for everyone.

Gray explained this event was for Blaine’s seventh-grade and eighth-grade bands, and that the senior high event had been held previously.

The Blaine seventh-grade band performed two pieces of music under Gray’s direction and were then addressed by Dan Beich, music director at Moses Lake High School, who told the band they “had a nice uniform sound,” and that he liked the Erie Canal musical piece the best.

Beich worked with the band to change the tempo into a dance beat as he demonstrated how music and tempo could move people. He said the band was a pleasure to work with, and told the students their director was doing a wonderful job. A superior rating was awarded to the seventh-grade band.

The eighth-grade band played three pieces with Gray conducting, followed by an evaluation from director Jim Kovach of Wenatchee High School. He told the students they did “a very nice job” and were “very well prepared.”

Kovach had the band perform with a wand-only exercise, leading the students to play using their individual interpretations of his wand movements.

This would help them with the differences between directors’ styles and “listen more carefully to the musicians you are playing with – you hear, you adjust.” The eighth-grade band also received a superior rating at the festival and received some of the highest scores awarded over the two-day event.

At a time when some school districts are forced to cut funding to the arts, Blaine district superintendent Ron Spanjer has emphasized the district’s artistic reputation.

“Student participation levels are continually high in these areas. Through a series of budget reduction years, we have been able to maintain a consistent level of support to the arts, and will continue to make every effort to do so.

“We are privileged to have parents and patrons in the Blaine school district who make these programs such a high priority and as such, lend a strong level of support.”