Music programs gearing for year-end events

As spring draws near, Hillsboro High School musicians, both instrumental and vocal, are tuning up for their competitive season.

It all begins March 5 at the MCAA League Music Contest. This year it is being held at Wichita Collegiate.

According to Gregg Walker, HHS instrumental music teacher, 12 instrumental soloists and five or six ensembles will compete, as well as the band, which has been preparing two pieces for the competition.

David Clark, vocal music instructor, will be bringing around 20 soloists, six ensembles including Spirit-N-Celebration, and the concert choir.

“The scoring system is not a winner-take-all system,” Clark said.

Students are scored on a rating system ranging from 1 to 5, with a 1 being superior. He said that very few lowest ratings are given.

“I expect most soloists to score high at contest, as well as the concert choir and Spirit-N-Celebration,” Clark said. “Younger students perform solos for experience and are evaluated differently.”

Following the league competition, HHS musicians will prepare for the Regional Solo/Ensemble Music Contest to be held April 13 at Tabor College.

The competition is very similar to the league contest, but according to Walker, “This is a state-sponsored event, and by receiving a ‘I,’ they qualify for state two weeks later.”

Walker has encouraged students to have their pieces at “state quality” at this point because the regional competition is only two weeks prior to the state contest. This means students must have their pieces memorized as well.

Finally, on April 27, the State Solo/Ensemble Music Contest will be held at Kansas State University in Manhattan. This event allows student musicians another opportunity to hone their skills in a competitive environment.

Another highlight to the competitive season for band and choir is the Cavalcade of Music, May 2-5.

“It is a national music contest in Colorado Springs, Colo.,” according to Walker, “that schools from all over the country will attend.”

HHS will compete against schools of the same size. Awards and trophies will be included.

“It should be a great experience to compete against schools from other states,” Walker said, “and we will also get to enjoy some of the sights and fun of Colorado Springs.”

Clark has set high goals for his choir at the Cavalcade of Music.

“We intend to bring home two first-place trophies in the choral competition,” he said.

Both Clark and Walker believe there is much value in having students prepare for and compete in these activities.

Said Clark: “I want all students to enjoy music by being successful in a group (team) effort. It teaches teamwork, the ‘we’ versus the ‘I’, and beauty.”

He also wants students to learn that great music can and should be performed, and that his students are capable of performing to high expectations.

“To succeed, students must work hard,” Clark added. “Soloists that work hard are typically rewarded with higher scores.”

Walker sees additional benefits as well.

“Solos are probably the best means for individual improvement. It builds self-confidence and pride,” he said. “And it improves the part they play in the whole band, therefore helping to improve the group as a whole.”

He also sees the opportunity to involve more students through participation in various ensembles, which again strengthens the group as a whole.

“Marching band and pep band provide a great venue for people to hear the kids,” Walker said. “We have been trying to improve those areas, but it is in the concert performances and solos/ensembles that most of the true musical growth takes place.”

Clark and Walker agree that the greatest strength in both programs is the talent of Hillsboro High School’s student musicians.

Said Clark: “They are tremendously talented. My job is to encourage, challenge and demand excellence.”

The tremendous support and encouragement from the Hillsboro community is also cited as a strength by Walker and Clark.

“And not just the parents of the students,” added Walker.

Support from school officials, administration, and teaching staff also contributes to the success of both programs.

Unfortunately, finding sufficient time to fully prepare their students for upcoming events is a struggle.

“Knowing this, we have to adjust, and we can and we are successful,” Clark said.

To increase opportunities for practice, Clark works with students on an individual basis as well as with small groups before and after school.

“There are things that would be helpful, like adopting a modified block schedule that allowed the band to rehearse every day,” Walker said.

In addition, Walker said it takes time to develop a good program.

“Band does allow everyone to contribute, and everyone is essential, but you don’t grow French horn players overnight,” he said. “I’m hoping we will continue to retain kids in all grades, especially from eighth grade to high school. I hope parents of eighth-graders will encourage their students to include band in their schedule.”

Both of these HHS instructors are optimistic about the performances their students can present during competition. They see great potential in all of their students.

“I expect my seniors to do real well,” Clark said. “But there are others that are good, too.”

Walker agreed.

“We have several outstanding students who have tried out for District Band and others who were selected for Wichita State University Honor Bands, and yet others who have gone to Lions Band,” he said. “Even this list doesn’t include some. As I think about it, I could say something about each and every band student that makes them a top performer.”

Aside from competition, both band and choir will have several additional performances this spring. The high school music concert is scheduled for March 14, followed by a variety show, April 25, and the Fine Arts Festival, May 9.

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