Former percussion director adjusts to new position as the online semester begins

September 5, 2020 — by Isaac Le and Jun Lee

While music director Michael Boitz is on paternity leave, percussion director and show designer Sean Clark will take over as  band director for the fall semester. Alongside Clark, music educator Norman Dea will take over orchestra to fill the hole left by Boitz’s departure.

The jump to marching band director is a large shift especially given the current learning circumstances, but Clark said he is looking forward to the role. 

”My position is quite different this year as I am working more closely with the Saratoga bands to help my good friend and colleague, Mr. Boitz, while he is on leave,” Clark said. 

Before coming to Saratoga High, Clark worked in the Clovis Unified School District at Buchanan High and Alta Sierra Intermediate, where he served as the percussion director, arranger and show designer. At the same time, Clark was also working to get his bachelor’s degree in music education at Fresno State University. 

Clark was introduced to the school in 2018 when he was invited by Boitz and music teacher Jason Shiuan to help the percussionists as a volunteer. He found working with the percussionists and marching band to be a rewarding experience since the students were eager to participate in rehearsals.

During his time here, Clark has had a profound impact on the program, especially for students like senior drum major Isaac Sun. 

“During junior year, he was extremely helpful, arguably the most helpful of all the music teachers in simply teaching me about being a drum major,” Sun said.  “He showed me techniques to keep rhythm, and constantly checked in to make sure I was doing okay. This year he has fallen into a similar role — someone who I know I can go to and ask for help and always expect a reasonable and helpful response.”

Beginning the school year in a distance learning environment, Clark has picked up his new role in uncharted territory. With new roles and additional responsibilities, Clark hopes to provide an effective learning plan for all band students while also creating an environment similar to on campus rehearsals. 

“Mr. Clark has done a phenomenal job — he has not only established himself as a very reliable and trustworthy teacher, but also shown that his knowledge of music is truly limitless,” Sun said. 

Currently, Clark plans to hold marching band rehearsals through Zoom, but he hopes that this will not prevent him from establishing a connection with his students. Through these rehearsals, specialized tutors brought in from outside of the school divide the band into different sections based on their instruments, playing synchronously through Zoom breakout rooms.  To maintain effective communication and learning, band students are also required to record a video on the techniques learned on a given day.  

“The entire marching aspect has been ultimately stripped as it is almost impossible to mimic it,” Sun said. “However, we have been able to practice some very essential movements and also have been able to work on music fundamentals and hopefully be able to set ourselves up for a wonderful season in 2022.”

Clark said that he believes this method is going smoothly, despite initial snags. As the semester continues, he will continue to modify curriculum to best fit the circumstances. 

“The beginning of the year has had some obstacles, but I feel our classes are starting to get into a rhythm,” Clark said. “As the year progresses, I look forward to working with the students in-person whenever circumstances permit.”

 

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Due to the lightning complex that occurred in the week of Aug.17, Santa Clara County is currently surrounded by wildfires, covering the city of Saratoga in heavy smoke. The air quality was in the range of 100 to 200 for the past five days, forcing SHS to close down. Photo by Selina Chen.

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