Newaygo High School Symphonic Band earns all 1s at State Competition
Story and photos by Tara Hefferan
Newaygo Bands is one of Newaygo Public Schools most winning programs, when measured by success at state-level competitions. That legacy of excellence continued today, when the Newaygo Symphonic Band earned straight superior ratings (“1s”) at the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association’s (MSBOA) State Band & Orchestra Festival at Muskegon Orchard View High School.
As Newaygo Symphonic Band Director Mr. Branden Listh explains, “At Band and Orchestra Festival, bands get a chance to show off their performance skills. They get a rating from 1 to 5, with 1 being the highest, and their overall score is calculated by adding up the ratings from each judge. If a band gets a Superior rating, they can move on to the State Band and Orchestra Festival, where they perform for three concert judges and get tips from a festival clinician. If a band gets a rating of 1 or 2, they get certificates and a plaque for their recognition. Any band can perform at the District level, but only a band that receives an overall rating of 1 at the District level can perform at the State level.” The Newaygo Symphonic Band qualified to participate in the state-competition in March, after earning Superior ratings in the District competition.
To prepare for the State Festival, the Band has been focusing on “developing our tone, intonation, and overall musicality. We've also been paying close attention to the technical demands of our pieces, working to achieve precision and accuracy in our playing. Additionally, we've been practicing our sight-reading skills, as that's a crucial part of the Festival's rating. Overall, we felt confident and prepared to go to State Festival today” says Mr. Listh.
While Newaygo Bands has a history of earning 1s at Festival, the last time they were there—back in 2018—they earned a 2. After pandemic cancellations and other restrictions, returning to Festival after five years with a Superior rating has a special sweetness. The Band flawlessly performed two pieces today. The first, Into the Storm by Robert W. Smith, is a dramatic and dynamic ode to Mother Nature’s fury. The second, Gadget by Standridge, is a fun romp with percussion sound effects paying homage to the “love of invention and novelty.”
Newaygo’s Bands have been successful, in part, due to the supportive culture nurtured in and out of the classroom. Reflecting on her four years in the band, senior Alexandria Bruwer said that being in the band has meant “having a community and family to rely on and to support you, to be able to grow together, to be together through it all.” Agreeing, senior McKade Hurrle said that band for him has been “about friendship. I love the family community that we’ve built here. From the upper classman to the lower classman, everyone kind of feels like they fit in somewhere.”
The sense of belonging and support provides the base for student success. From there, the students rise together through hard work and dedication. Mr. Listh said, “I want people to know that our students have been working incredibly hard to prepare for this year's performances, “including Marching Band and these Festival performances. Our Symphonic Band is composed of talented and dedicated students who are passionate about music, and they've been pushing themselves to achieve their personal bests in rehearsals and performances. I couldn't be prouder of the time and work they pour into this program to make it what it is today.”
How does it feel to earn top ratings in the state competition? Alexandria Bruwer said, “It feels amazing! It feels great to see the physical results of our hard work over the past few months, to see everyone succeed together.” McKade Hurrle added “It feels great to have the stress off my shoulders! It’s nice to see everybody smile!”
With this milestone now achieved, the Band is turning its attention to their "Spring into Summer Concert in the Park" to be held Tuesday, May 23rd at 5:30 pm. Mr. Listh invites the community to “come out and listen to some fantastic music in Brooks Park. You will hear our Newaygo's 6th through 8th grade, our High School Symphonic Band, and our Newaygo Jazz Band all perform in one night. We even will have Papa Don's Italian Ice coming out to serve treats to the community during the event. So, even if you don't have a student in the band program, feel free to bring a folding chair and join us for a great night filled with music.”
After that, preparations will start for the fall Marching Band show. The theme, which was just revealed to students this past week, is “A Pirates Adventure.” Mr. Listh said, “the students are more than excited about the music, props designs, and color guard uniforms we have planned, and they can't wait to show it off to the community in the fall.” We in the community can’t wait either, Mr. Listh. Newaygo Bands is the pride of the town.
Scott R Wolven
4/27/2023 11:33:57 am
The best band in the land!
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