In three weeks, my high school band is having a reunion. I had the pleasure of growing up in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, which is known across the nation as having one of the best high school band programs. We weren’t good at everything–for example, we marched only because we had to. Oconomowoc’s program was so good that it was common for us to go on tour to a music festival, and for our two bands to earn 1st and 2nd place at those performances. The program was so well known that one state honor band organization contacted our school, and we sent fifteen players to an honors band, each one of us taking the “first chair” position in that band.
I had the pleasure to be the tuba section leader of our top ensemble, the Wind Symphony, for two years–and to be in the high school choir. The Wind Symphony was known for its unbelievable level of playing and its blue tuxedo shirts. Although I never had a chance to perform at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic (a high honor in the band world) the band during my senior year made the recording which allowed the next year’s ensemble to attend the festival.
During my tenure in the band, I was under the direction of A.J. “Buzz” Hoefer, who later went on to direct orchestras at U.W. LaCrosse. He terrified us (absolutely) and inspired all of us–and he was a huge part of Oconomowoc’s band success at the time (the program continues its tradition under its current director, Mike Krofta). Oconomowoc had other top-notch band directors in my time, who were directors of the “second band” including Dennis Glocke (Now the top band director at Penn State) and Rob Franzblau (Rhode Island College).
Several years ago, Mr. Hoefer was in the area and stopped by our large district music festival, and I was pleased beyond measure to have him hear my high school choir, which happened to be one of the very best I’ve had over the years. Teachers are very, very important people in our lives–their opinions matter to us, years later.
So we’re getting an alumni band together, celebrating the fifteen years Mr. Hoefer was the director at Oconomowoc; and we’re not just getting together, we’re getting together and we’re playing legitimate literature.
Without a doubt, my choral experience in high school was very important, and I can now count my high school choir director as a dear friend. I teach choral music as a living. But high school band is where I first experienced musical excellence. I am so very excited to play tuba again (I own my own horn–a Cerveny), and to play with these players. As a side note, I’ve been using a Kelly Mouthpiece (lexan), the Kellyburg, for the last few years–I really like it. My previous mouthpiece of choice is no longer made…the Giardinelli Helleburg.
With all seriousness, my high school band played music that was more difficult (and better performed) than most of the honor bands I’ve been involved with (high school or collegiate), and my high school band was better than my college bands and most college bands I’ve heard. REALLY.
So…all of my music is on my iPad, and as I practice I’ve been using my new Justand iPad Document Camera Stand as a music stand on a table, and my PageFlip Bluetooth Pedal to turn pages. There are a few measures giving me some issues in Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dance Op. 46 No. 3 and Hultgren’s Bushdance, but I’m going to do my best to be ready and have my chops in shape for our concert later this month.
You can see more about this experience at the website: http://www.oconomowocwsreunion.com