The Music Never Stops for Oak Ridge Band

Hey check this out, we were due for a band article so I thought I had a great idea. Put this idea in the ignoramous/clueless category. I inquired with my “band Guy”, Jack Allen as to what the band off season activities consist of. I just figured like football, baseball, soccer, etc… that every school activity has an off season.

Well, Mr Allen gave me one of those “Wow, you are so clueless but I will be polite and humble you” looks. Jack proceeded to give me one of the most comprehensive band activity dissertations of all time. What was so impressive was that he was so good at explaining it all, even I understood. The following is what I learned about the “YEAR ROUND” Oak Ridge band activities. Let it be known from here on out that band has no off season.

The band “offseason” never really happens until the kids are out of school for the summer. Even then, the band kids probably get the shortest break of any group in the school.

The rehearsals for the concert season start as soon as the football season is over as they immediately begin to prepare for the Holiday Concert. The performers are split up into four bands based on ability. The bands are the Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Band, Concert Band I and Concert Band II. Jack Allen directs the Wind Ensemble and Concert Band II, Jerriald Dillard the Symphonic Band, and Albert Vela the Concert Band I.

Throughout the marching season, the students are preparing for the All Region Band Auditions that happen the first weekend in December. While they are practicing eight hours a week after school for the marching band, they are taking private lessons on their instruments, and practicing individually for this audition. This is the first audition on the road to All State. This year, they had 26 band members earn placement into the Region IX All Region Band. Of these, four advanced to the Area Band Audition where they auditioned for the Texas All State Band. Oak Ridge did not have any students make the All State Band this year. However, they had a trumpet player, Rutger Yager place only two away from earning this high honor.

As soon as the Holiday Concert is finished which is usually around the 15th of the month, the bands prepare for the UIL Solo and Ensemble Contest. Every student who is a member in the band will compete in this competition on their instrument individually or in small ensembles of instruments. This contest is held on February 18th and the kids have the chance to advance to the State Solo and Ensemble Contest that is held in May at the University of Texas.

The biggest and most educational time of the year is the spring semester. Currently, they are working on music to perform for the UIL Concert and Sightreading contest that is held in April. The top three bands are working to each learn a march and two selections of music to perform for this contest. They will play a concert consisting of prepared music for three judges who each give a rating from I–V with I being the Superior Rating. Immediately after performing the concert, they are taken into a room and given a brand new piece of music that neither the kids nor the director have ever seen before. The band is then given 10 minutes to learn this music, without playing the instruments, and is expected to perform the music for three more judges who give another rating from I – V. “It’s an amazing process that is incredibly stressful, but incredibly rewarding for our kids”, stated Jack Allen.

Immediately following UIL Concert and Sightreading Contest, the band leaders will take the kids to San Antonio to compete in the Alamo Showcase of Music in mid-April. Mr. Allen likes this excursion:

“This is a fun trip for the kids as we will get to go to SeaWorld and Fiesta Texas while we are there. There will be bands competing from all over the state in a concert contest that is judged again by three judges that have most likely never heard our program before.”

When the band is finished with UIL and the Spring Trip, they begin to prepare for the Spring Concert that takes place in mid-May. The band will learn 3-4 completely new pieces of music for this concert as the kids and leaders celebrate the end of the school year.

Immediately following the Spring Concert, the leaders get the kids ready for the next marching season. The music for the fall is in hand and they start learning this during the school day. There is a camp with the 8th graders where Mr. Vela and the older kids teach the incoming freshmen how to march. The week after school is out, the leaders have the band kids up at Oak Ridge high school for the week as they begin learning the music with the freshmen and practice marching.

The kids then get about six weeks off in the summer. They will then start it all up again on July 29th with the officers and August 1st with the entire band. Through all of this spring semester, the Oak Ridge nationally recognized percussion ensemble, under the direction of Jerriald Dillard, is working after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays as they prepare their program for their percussion ensemble concert.

The five time state champion color guard starts working on their indoor show immediately following football season. They rehearse two nights a week as well as all day on Saturdays to prepare their program for the Texas Color Guard Circuit competitions as well as the Winter Guard International regionals and World Championships in Dayton, Ohio in April. Oak Ridge has two color guards, Varsity and JV, that are under the direction of Tom Harrington. These groups compete from January through April in contests in Houston and across the state.

A select few Oak Ridge band members have auditioned and will be performing in the musical “Oklahoma!” with members of the ORHS Orchestra, Choir, and Theater departments. The fine arts department has been working since November on this musical, and the kids began learning their music under the direction of Albert Vela and Linda Nicolosi upon return from the break. The musical debuts on January 27th and runs through the 29th. Mr. Allen encourages the public to attend, “This is a team effort with the entire fine arts department and it is a great show. Tickets can be purchased at lunches at ORHS this week and next for $8, or bought at the door for $10.”

This year, the Wind Ensemble will be submitting a recording to the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago. They will be competing against bands from all over the country for an invitation to perform a concert at the Midwest Clinic in Chicago in December of this year. If selected, they will be among 5-6 high school bands from all over the country to perform at this clinic.

To prepare for this recording, the students will be rehearsing after school every day with their sections as well as individually on their own. They will also be having some Saturday rehearsals as they prepare for the recording they will make the week before Spring Break.

I always thought that the marching season was the granddaddy of all band activities. Little did I know that although it is a huge part of band, so much more is involved when looking at the whole music picture. Jack Allen was nice enough to sum it all up:

“People ask me all the time if I am excited that marching season is over and the truth is that I look forward to the marching season because we work less than we do the rest of the school year. The difference is that it is outside in the heat, but the hours that our directors put in actually picks up after marching season is over. The kids’ organized rehearsal schedule is dramatically less, but their individual responsibilities pick up during the concert season.”

So now you know a whole heck of a lot more about the Oak Ridge band picture than you used to. I know I do!

You know, we’ve covered the band about five times since October and each time we continue to be amazed at all of the work that goes on in that building behind that tractor trailer.

One of these days, I’m writing about a school activity that actually HAS an off season. You know what? I’ll be interviewing the Ag’ department next… no way does that agriculture stuff go on year round.

Comments to Doug Sarant at doug@oakridgenow.com

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Doug Sarant, Oak Ridge Now

Born and raised in New England, Doug promises he got to Texas as fast as he could. He earned the much needed "piece of paper" from Sam Houston State, proving to himself he could start and finish something. Doug's interests include coaching and playing any sport and still plays lacrosse competitively. He also enjoys going to dinner theaters, though he complains there just aren't enough of them in the area. Doug was brought up in a cultured environment, having suffered through dozens of symphonies and operas with his way too over-educated mother. At the end of the day, Doug is just a dad and husband and claims to be good at both.

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