Music programs ready for festival

Music_by_DelusionalistBy News Editor: Kayla McClain

The month of March does not consist of usual music band or choir concerts, but it is when students compete in the annual festival competition. On March 15, Howell High School band students will be going to Lake Orion High School, while on March 19 and 20, all choirs are going to Waterford-Kettering High School and Walled Lake Northern High School to perform for their chance to go to state.

As for band, each one of the bands has to play three selections. One of them has to be a march, another is a piece chosen from a specific list depending on classification. They will then be scored by three judges, and HHS band director, Mr. Jason Smigell, is most definitely confident in his students’ performance.

“They [the judges] give you a rating based on your performance, anywhere from a one to five, five being poor, and one being excellent,” Mr. Smigell says. “We’re hoping to go get one’s.”

Afterwards, the bands look at a piece they have never seen before and sight read it. Again, a judge evaluates them on the performance and then members are scored from one to five. Once the four scores are combined, there is an overall rating.

“It’s a big deal for us,” Mr. Smigell says. “It’s very stressful for me, but I enjoy the challenge of it and my kids are doing well.”

Students have been practicing since the beginning of the year, and although Mr. Smigell has high hopes, he wonders if the recent snow days could have affect their performance.

“I think with all the snow days, it’s going to be difficult to pull off but I think we’re still in the ballpark,” Mr. Smigell says. “I think if we work hard we can do it.”

There has been two weeks less of preparation time, but that does not discourage Mr. Smigell and the students. He knows a professor at Saginaw Valley is a judge and will analyze the students beforehand, so hopefully that will give them more guidance.

“You’re actually interviewing me on the day of our pre-festival concert when a gentleman will come talk to us and see how we did. I think I chose the right literature, so hopefully we’ll do well,” Mr. Smigell says.

Bands will start holding afterschool rehearsals to make-up for lost time. Choir director, Mr. Rod Bushey, has taken just as many practices and rehearsals in order to be successful.

“We rehearse pretty much all year. We always work on site-reading and increase our musical skill there. Some kids have been preparing back in September for it,” Mr. Bushey says.

All members of HHS choirs are also judged, but a fourth judge does not give them a score. Instead, they receive a fifteen-minute clinic with that judge to discuss the performance. Afterwards, just like the band, the choirs site-read a piece they never seen before.

“The best score you can get is a Superior rating, which is very difficult to achieve,” Mr. Bushey states. “It’s an evaluation of our choirs. You’re putting your stuff out there and saying, ‘Go ahead and evaluate us. Tell us how we stack up.'”

The next available scores are Excellent, which both Superior and Excellent qualify to go to state festival. Previously, choirs had qualified five of the six to go to state, and at one point all choirs qualified to go. This process includes competing with other districts, which fascinates members and directors.

“We always have the opportunity to see the choirs at other schools, and that’s always cool, too,” Mr. Bushey says. “I even judge myself when I judge another district’s [choir].”

To some the idea of festival might be a little obscure, but Mr. Bushey explains that the experience is a unique opportunity for students to show their work and skill that other classes are unable to do.

“It’s sort of like putting all your class work, and putting it in front of your colleagues. It would be kind of weird for a math teacher taking math classes over to another high school,” Mr. Bushey says. “But that’s the unique thing about music. We prepare our kids and then go sing in front of those judges.”

This festival is sponsored by the MSVMA (Michigan School Vocal Musical Association) and they are scored on a rubric that evaluates everything from tone quality to presentation. Many aspects are contributed into this process, but Mr. Bushey advises students to always do their best.

“It’s a pretty rigorous process and it’s pretty hard to get perfect scores,” Mr. Bushey says. “I think our kids will do well. Our students always do their best to represent Howell High School. I always tell them they are not only representing themselves, but also representing the school. Their work ethic in class will be reflected on how they do on stage.”