Work ethic taught in middle school prepares students for high school band

May 27, 2010 — by Sarah Hull and Aanchal Mohan

Question: What is the secret behind the success of the school’s award-winning marching band?

Among the many possible answers—tireless nights spent rehearsing on the football field, determination to achieve and school-wide appeal. But perhaps the most important reason is the preparation that takes root at Redwood Middle School.

Current band members recall the passionate guidance of now-retired Redwood music director Vicky Wyant, who introduced and instilled into them the work ethic and mind-set required to perform successfully in high school, thus making their adjustment to Saratoga High band a lot smoother. SHS alumnus Jon Jow took over Wyant’s position in 2009 and has sought to retain the program’s high standards.

“Mrs. Wyant definitely prepared us discipline wise,” said freshman clarinet player Maya Nag. “We learned the basics of music at Redwood so that when we got to high school we didn’t have to learn them all over again.”

The step up from the middle school band to the high school band is a big one to say the least, but the fact that Saratoga High’s band is so highly recognized makes the transition even more nerve wracking. To ease this transition, the band hosts a two-week band camp to teach both the new and old members the intricate steps and notes required to bring the upcoming year’s field show up to par.

“It didn’t take me too long to adjust to high school band because we had band camp before the real season started,” said Nag. “I thought those two weeks prepared me pretty well.”

Even with band camp, it is still difficult for members to learn all the necessary material they need to be ready for marching band season. Band members recognize that one of the key differences between middle school and high school bands is the field show, which is performed during football games and at competitions.

“The field show was the toughest because you have to memorize way more music than you did for Redwood,” said sophomore alto saxophone player Kushal Raj. “You also have to memorize all the formations for moving around, while in Redwood you just had to march forward.”

Although these field shows prove to be hard to perfect for freshmen, they have many fellow peers to help them along the way.

“When I was a freshman, the seniors were really cool,” said Raj. “They made me feel welcome in the school and less awkward. They showed me how to do a lot of stuff and they told me funny stories.”

The challenging pieces of music students were required to play at Redwood also contributed to how well prepared they were for the Saratoga High music program.

“We played a lot harder music than what middle schools normally play,” said junior drum major Jason Shiuan. “Because of this, we got a good taste of what high school would be like.”

In addition to more challenging music, high school band members enjoy the liberty and independence that the high school setting offers.

“It’s a lot more relaxed in high school as opposed to middle school where everything’s a little more structured,” said senior baritone player Gautam Srinivasan. “One of the biggest differences is that Mr. Boitz treats you like an adult.”

Students appreciate the changes that have come with being part of the Saratoga High band and under the music department’s guidance have been able to develop as individuals and collectively.

“Both middle school and high school band are really fun, but as you grow as a musician you want harder music and that’s what you get in high school,” said Shiuan. “You get things that challenge you, and you also get different styles of music that you don’t normally hear.”

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