After weeks of practice and hard work both in and out of class, students in the Concert Band, Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble are finishing preparations for their holiday concerts, which will take place at 7 p.m. tonight and tomorrow in the PAC.
The concerts are the first of the year for Wind Ensemble members and, for Symphonic Band and Concert Bands, the first of the year to include the members involved in the competitive marching band earlier this year.
RBHS students aren’t the only ones preparing for this week’s concerts, however. Eighth-grade bands from Gentry Middle School and Jefferson Middle School will play alongside RBHS bands at both concerts this week as a way to provide incoming freshmen with the opportunity to experience a part of the high school band program — a tradition among the three schools since 2013, assistant band director Patrick Sullivan said.
“[RBHS] has been doing combined concerts in some way for many years. When [RBHS] became a nine through 12 building and Jefferson Middle and Gentry Middle became the students directly coming into [RBHS], our recruiting efforts became focused on only two buildings,” Sullivan said. “All the bands had been doing a winter concert in the past, so we thought it would be a great for the eighth-grade students to see the high school bands and what they were going to be involved with the following year.”
Such an experience with the high school band program, GMS band director Amber Quest said, can actually be extremely helpful to some eighth-grade students. The ability for the students to meet the program directors at the high school, as well as to hear the types of music they learn to play, she said, often encourages many to continue with the band program in spite of any worries they may have. The fact that Sullivan and band director Steve Mathews already meet with eighth-graders regularly this year to direct them in class is even more helpful.
“When the eighth-grade students have the opportunity to meet and work with the [RBHS] directors before they step foot into [RBHS], the transition to the high school band program is so much more seamless and positive for students,” Quest said. “I also believe it is beneficial for the current high school band students to get to meet the eighth-grade band students through these opportunities. The eighth-grade band students will be their peers in high school and developing strong relationships early on is important.”
Having been a part of the GMS eighth grade band last year, freshman Khalid Ibdah said playing in the RBHS winter concert last year was a very positive experience. While he had already planned to continue with band into high school, he said, it gave him a better idea of what the program would be like compared to the one at GMS.
“[The concert] showed us how professional [the Wind Ensemble players] were and made me want to join them,” Ibdah said. “The band that I heard was playing really good music, versus our band which was playing quarter note, eighth note, eighth note, pause, which wasn’t really musical.”
It’s this form of encouragement toward continuing band, Quest said, that makes her hope such collaboration continues in future years.
“It’s really been a blast to watch the Gentry eighth-graders being exposed to their first high school band experiences, as well as seeing former Gentry students succeed at [RBHS],” Quest said. “This type of collaboration is proving to be so effective in helping with a smooth transition for our eighth-grade students from Gentry to [RBHS]. The eighth-grade students are eager and excited about the [RBHS] band program because of the experiences they’re gaining.”