Education feature: Changes help CHS band excel

CNJ staff phtoto: Liliana Castillo Clovis High School junior Jeremy Urban said band directors pushed the students to new success this year.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

The Clovis High School Band recently closed its marching season achieving new levels of excellence and winning numerous awards.

The band was named New Mexico Grand Champion at the Zia Marching Fiesta in mid-October, which band leaders and members equate to a football team winning the state championship.

Assistant directors Karl Powell and Ty Frederick said the successful season was the fruit of changes made in the program.

First, the department’s goal became to be competitive on a national level. With that goal in their sights, the department hired a new show writing staff.

The band’s show called Rhapsody in Red was written specifically for the CHS band and combined with the students’ efforts won the band general effect and outstanding visual during the Zia Marching Fiesta.

Powell said directors visited with national competition-winning band directors and “picked their brains.”

“We asked them ‘what did you do?, how did your rehearsal change?’” Powell said.

The results included refining the band’s sound, Frederick said.

“Refining our sound means improving tone quality and the overall sound of the band when they performed,” Frederick said. “We had many comments around the state on our sound.”

The directors also give credit to the students themselves.

“We had a very good group of kids that worked well with the changes we made. We had great student band leaders and it paid off,” Frederick said.

Powell said this year’s marching season was one of the most successful years in recent history.

“With our goal of succeeding on the national level, we got to see where we’re shooting for,” he said. “The kids felt the year was very successful. In the end, you could feel the energy and excitement. Hopefully, we’ll feed on that next year.”

The band will transition into next year’s season by keeping a steady level of strong leadership among students, the directors said. Each year, the band starts out at square one and graduates to individual strengths, the directors said.

Alto sax player Jeremy Urban said the band directors lead them to victory.

“The directors push us and know what to expect from us,” the junior said. “They provide a lot of encouragement.”

Urban said the band’s first trip to the Bands of America Competition provided good experience.

“We knew we weren’t going to win,” he said. “But it was good to go and see what we want.”

Peter Difrancesca, parent of French horn player Hailey Difrancesca, said the band teaches the students more than how to play an instrument.

“People involved in band are more dedicated to what they’re doing,” he said. “I’ve seen her grades go up. They learn to work as a team, especially during marching season, and they learn character.”

Hailey, a senior, said the seniors in the band have a clear understanding of what the band wants to achieve.

“It’s a really good feeling to be accomplished,” she said. “The seniors know what we want and we can help the younger kids to understand and get us all to that goal.”

Hailey said being in the band is like having a big family.

“We’re so close. We see each other every morning and nearly every afternoon,” she said. “We share strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes.”