Although junior high school bands compete with each other, no one is a loser. The judging system is used for improvement. This was our fourth competition for this school year.
It was up early and drive to Puyallup for this year’s last band competition of our youngest granddaughter. We didn’t get a chance to talk with her before or after the competition, but we enjoyed every minute. She had soccer tryouts at noon; her competition was at 10:30 to 11. She still had to go home, change into her soccer gear and get to the tryouts.
We sat through the performance of Ballou Junior High Concert Band. They did a nice job, however their band seemed small. They had only three Saxophones (all altos), and one oboe, but they did play the kettle drums. We enjoyed their performance. One of the nice things about concerts and competitions are the musical pieces. Band directors choose music that both challenges their students and lets them rise to the occasion as well. The judges make suggestions. In some competitions the judges are hands-on and will either play along with the contestants or conduct to illustrate their points. For instance, a judge may show how to hold the flute in a more comfortable way.
Edgemont performed the haunting Companion of My Voice by Randall Standridge. This piece has sweet solos by the bass clarinet. Standridge gives us a melodic dream inspired by the Greek poet Arion. Arion is said to have invented the dithyramb, which is a choral or chant. There was no chanting, but there was an emotional collection of many voices delivered by the instruments and players. Edgemont Junior High Concert Band is large and competent and kudos to director Andy Burch. He had encouraged most of its members since the fifth grade. The young lady who played the bass clarinet doubled on bassoon. At Clover Park I played baritone Sax in the concert band and alto Sax in the orchestra. I also borrowed the school’s bassoon, but could never get it to sing like I wanted.
Fanfare for Justice by Richard Saucedo involved the entire percussion section. My wife Peg informed me that perhaps Ballou Junior High had a smaller band and smaller sections;, however, their percussion section was one member larger. Larger or smaller didn’t really matter. From wood block knocking to base drum echoing, a single tempo like a heart beating gave a colorful combination of horns, woodwinds, and controlled enthusiasm
The final number was The Voyageurs by Pierre LaPlante. I pictured an image of wagon trains coming west, but not so. The piece had three movements. I envisioned wagon trains but the music was a tribute to fur traders of Canada, “singing their paddling songs, love songs and rowdy songs of celebration.” I saw a note on the internet that this Canadian opus is doing well in competitions across the country. The last competitor was Ferrucci Junior High Concert Band. They also chose a three-movement piece by LaPlante as well as another selection by Randall Standridge.
The judges passed along their comments to the various band directors. We don’t really care which bands won. We know we did enjoy it all. We enjoyed the morning. We heard five different numbers, heard two concert bands and it was all free. Best of all, the students enjoyed themselves and probably learned enough to become even better musicians.