SHS hosts annual SCCBDA Honor Band Concert

January 28, 2010 — by Vivien Lu and Ashley Tang

Last fall junior clarinetist Kyle Fukui auditioned for the Santa Clara County Band Directors Association (SCCBDA) County Honor Band, which is held once a year. He was one of 57 clarinetists undergoing this stressful challenge.

In December, Fukui found out that he was among the 24 clarinetists who had the chance to join the 90-person group for its performance on Jan. 17 in the McAfee Center. The site of the concert changes among schools each year, and it was Saratoga’s turn host the event.

After starting 58 years ago, the group has become one of the strongest county honor bands in the country. During auditions, only 90 out of 300 students from 28 participating schools were accepted. Out of the 90 students accepted, 22 were from Saratoga High.

“I was so excited when I got into the SCCBDA,” sophomore euphoniumist Chris Jones said. “I practiced really hard and I was so nervous for my acceptance. When I finally made it, I felt I had made a great accomplishment.”

The performances by SCCBDA County Honor Band are unlike regular band concerts at Saratoga High. After receiving the music pieces one week in advance, students met the next week for three days over the weekend. Two days were spent practicing, and the concert took place on the third day.

“The weekend was really long because we practiced for four hours on Friday night and then on Saturday, practice went from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s a completely different experience because there’s a lot more people in it,” said junior clarinetist Karen Wai. “All the people are from different schools, so I make some new friends. Also, the literature we play is pretty diverse and exciting. In the end, the experience was really fun and I’m glad that this year, I decided to join.”

Every year, a guest band director conducts the concert. For this performance, Dr. Ryan Nelson came from Northwestern University in Chicago. He worked with the band in preparation for the concert.

“The conductor was very exciting,” music director Michael Boitz said. “Not only is he fun, exciting, and energetic, but he is also closer in age to the kids than most of our guest conductors. A larger percent of our guest conductors tend to be old gray-haired white men because it’s the nature of the business. I felt it was more inspiring to the kids because he could connect more to them.”

The students especially noticed the impact of having a younger conductor. According to Wai, his enthusiasm toward the program was really helpful.

Said Jones, “I thought the music choice was quite interesting. It was creative and modern, and it reflected the style today.”

Contemporary pieces such as “Fanfare Ritmico” by Jennifer Higdon, premiered in 2000, and the “Concerto for Flute & Wind Orchestra, Movement 1” by Mike Mower, premiered in 2004, were two of the four pieces performed at the concert. Observers said the concert ran smoothly.

“I thought it went great,” said Boitz. “The kids rose to the occasion, responded well to the conductor, and the overall quality of the music was really good.”

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