Following a week of “zero-period” rehearsals and working with other directors, the middle-school and high-school Jazz Bands and the combined concert band performed at the Forum Music Festival at Ohlone College in Fremont, May 21.
All three groups received 2’s, earning silver ratings. In addition, two sixth-graders and two seniors received awards for “outstanding musician.”
In preparation, director Bob Ratcliff invited three other high-school band directors to work with the students.
“(It’s) a community of band directors,” he said.
Although these directors’ bands are competing against each other, Ratcliff said the ultimate goal is to “raise the level of musicality across the board.”
Each group performed for the three “clinicians,” who have all served as music-festival adjudicators.
“I had each of these guys fill out an adjudication form and give (the groups) a score, just like they were being scored at a festival,” Ratcliff said.
For the Jazz Bands, Tony Marvelli of River City High School judged the middle school and Ron Cunha of Jesuit, the high school.
And Brad North, band director at Woodcreek High School and president of the local section of Calfornia Music Education Association, judged the combined band.
After scoring, the clinicians worked with the students on improvements.
“I think it was very helpful for the kids,” Ratcliff said. “The kids have a lot more fun. (They) really seemed to enjoy it.”
Clinicians are a fresh face for students and may back up what Ratcliff has emphasized to his students day after day.
“If you bring another person to come in and say it, they may say it in a way that it sticks better,” Ratcliff said. “The students will be listening a little more closely to this other person than they might be to me.”
In addition, clinicians can cover more material more quickly, according to Ratcliff.
“You can go in and work on musical concepts, instead of teaching them how to play their instrument,” he said.
And if the students can accomplish what the directors suggest, “they get results right away,” Ratcliff said, “which is what everyone wants: (the) instant fix.”
Ratcliff said he thought the three groups played well.
“But they did sound better earlier in the week,” he said. “They didn’t quite play to the level they did with the clinicians.”
Still, Ratcliff said he is not disappointed.
“They did a good job,” he said.
Middle-school Jazz Band
The middle-school Jazz Band performed “Tricky Sticks” (a drum feature) and “The Whole Enchilada” (a Latin jazz cha cha).
Fifth-grader Anna Wilson had a baritone saxophone solo in “The Whole Enchilada” and received an outstanding musicianship award.
“She sounded great,” Ratcliff said. “The instrument’s as big as she is!”
High-school Jazz Band
“The high-school Jazz Band played “Squares Be Gone.”
“The melody is kind of like a bebop song,” Ratcliff said. “(It) moves in chromatic scale.”
In addition, the group played “The Tiger of San Pedro.”
“It’s kind of like an in-your-face-screaming Latin jazz tune,” Ratcliff said.
Auxiliary percussion included tambourine, agogo bells and a vibraslap (which sounds like a rattlesnake).
Along with the different types of percussion sounds, the piece is very trumpet-heavy, Ratcliff said.
Eighth-grader Donghwan Park, who played a big trumpet solo, received an award for outstanding musicianship, as did senior Keaton Ochoa (guitar).
Combined concert band
The combined middle- and high-school concert band had early- morning rehearsals from 7:30-8:15 Monday-Friday leading up to the competition.
“That’s the only time I had to put both the middle school and the high school together,” Ratcliff said.
The group, which includes 13 sixth-graders, performed “First We Dream” and “The Second Storm.”
Senior Sydney Michel, who had a flute solo in “First We Dream,” received an outstanding musicianship award.
“(‘First We Dream’ is a) relatively complex piece,” Ratcliff said. “(It) has a lot of different things going on, a lot of percussion instruments in it.”
Given the number of sixth-graders, Ratcliff said the piece is “definitely sophisticated.”
“They had to work really hard in order to pull that song off,” he said.
“A festival is a difficult environment. It’s (in) a regular concert hall. The sounds are all different.”
In addition, the percussionists don’t play their own familiar instruments – they use those that belong to the college.
“(With) so many things going on, it can be hard to focus on what you’re supposed to be doing,” Ratcliff said.
“Especially for a sixth grader, it’s a difficult thing. They’ve never done it before. The high-school kids are more comfortable with it.”
As its name suggests, “The Second Storm” sounds like a storm and includes two time signatures (4/4 and 3/4).
“It’s an exciting piece,” Ratcliff said. “It starts off a little bit mellow, more lyrical, a little bit slower.
“Then it kind of jumps into a little faster pace. You start hearing a storm come in. By the end of the piece, it’s really revved up.”
The students spent the afternoon and early evening at Great America before returning home.