Bands striving for superior

Shannon O'Keefe

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The District Band Assessment held by the Virginia Band and Orchestra Directors Association, or VBODA, is a defining moment for school bands, as they show what musical skills and talents they’ve developed over the school year. District assessments can essentially be seen as SOLs for musical extracurriculars.
The groups that will be playing at the district assessments are Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble. Symphonic Band is recognized as the lower band with mainly freshmen and sophomores. Wind Ensemble is known as the upper band which is mostly comprised of juniors and seniors.
The assessments are composed of two different tests. There is a prepared piece test which is judged by three judges and a sight reading test which is critiqued by one judge. The Symphonic Band’s prepared pieces are “March of the Buccaneers,” by Victor Flowers, “Aventura,” by James Swearingen, and “When Spirts Soar,” by Brian Balmages. The Wind Ensemble’s prepared pieces are “The All American March” by Chris Sharp, “Vigil’s Keep” by Julie Giroux, and “Persis” by James L. Hosay.
The second test, sight reading, can be seen as much more difficult due to the difficulties of sight reading.
Sight reading is a skill that takes musicians years to master and perfect. Sight reading is simply being given a piece one has never seen before, and then being expected to play it near perfectly after only looking over it for a very limited amount of time, usually a few minutes. In district assessments bands are limited to only examining a piece during the sight reading portion for only seven minutes. In that time, they are not allowed to play their instruments.
Judges critique bands on a multitude of categories. These include tone quality, intonation, technique, rhythm, balance, musicianship, as well as general factors. The judges grade the band in each of the categories, and then tally up the scores to give the band a score of a one to a five; a grade of a one being a superior and the best score, to a grade of five being poor and the lowest score.
Students have been putting in their best effort in order to do well and continue the school’s streak of maintaining superior throughout the years. The band has been a Virginia Honor Band for the past 14 consecutive years.
In former years, the students used to start practices earlier in the year. This year, the students have had fewer morning practices, but more practices during their lunch period.
“District Assessment is a blast! It’s great getting to dedicate time to a performance bigger than any one performer. Our music is coming together really well this year, and I think we are setting ourselves for another great performance. The event is an enriching experience for all of the band members and we’ve learned so much this time around. I’m excited beyond words for assessment, and I’m hopeful for a superior rating,” senior Christopher Hamilton said.
There are also stakes being raised as the designation of the Virginia Music Educators Association Blue Ribbon School title is on the line. The honor is given when the top concert, orchestra, and choir all receive a superior rating on their assessments. The school has been a blue ribbon school for the past 11 consecutive years, being the longest streak for any high school in state.
The music department has a longstanding commitment to excellence and has its eyes set on bringing back another superior rating and continuing the streak of being a blue ribbon school.

Bands striving for superior