Jamiliah Phillip-Johnson

Members of the band and band front are putting on their pregame show before a football game/ The performance ended in the band spelling out “TIDE” and playing the tune “March Grandioso.” Sophomore Emma Smith said “I always had so much fun being around the entire band during marching season.”

   The Pottsville Area High School provides many opportunities for musically gifted students to develop their talents with other students. There are even some groups run by outside organizations that students can participate in. Whether they’re a brass, wind, string or percussion player, every student has a chance to find something he or she likes.

Marching and Concert Band

    Before every home football game, the marching band puts on their pre-game show for the people in the stands, coming onto the field in their red and white uniforms. Beginning in August, the band practices their pre-game show, halftime show and stand music to prepare for football game performances. The pre-game show ends with all of the students spelling out “TIDE” to the tune March Grandioso, and then the football game begins. The halftime show is typically played after the second quarter at away games. They also have stand music they perform during the game. You can always count on the band playing classics like “Hey Baby,” “Seven Nation Army,” and “Land of 1000 Dances.” Watch closely and you’ll see some musicians in the band dancing and having a good time while playing these tunes.

   Concert band is less showy than marching band, but the music is typically more challenging with a wider range of emotions. The songs in marching band are meant to get people excited for the football game, while concert band music can be exciting, beautifully sad or anything in between. There is also a greater variety of instruments in concert band. For example, students who play tenor and baritone saxophone in concert band play alto saxophone in marching band. There are also more unique instruments that can’t be marched with, like oboe and bassoon. This added flair gives students something that simply isn’t attainable in marching band, as fun as that may be.

    Sophomore Emma Smith is currently learning clarinet so that she can join the band. She said, “I wanted to join marching band because I always had so much fun being around the entire band during marching season, so I thought it would be good to surround myself with the same people. I also had to pick up and start learning an instrument. I think this will turn out to be a great decision for me because I enjoy learning new skills and being around my friends. Oh, and not to mention quality points. But I’m less concerned with that than I am the band experience.”

    Percussion Ensemble a small group of percussionists made up of students in our high school’s band. They are directed by Mr. Steve Horvath and use all kinds of percussion instruments. They’ve used drum sets, chimes, marimba and even a train whistle. It is a nice change of pace for some instrumentalists to have more variety in what they play. They play their own song during the band concerts and even put on a performance for students at John S. Clarke Elementary School during December.

     Victoria Oswald, a member or percussion ensemble, said “Percussion ensemble means that we get to play decent parts for all the songs, as they are specifically for percussion. Also, percussion ensemble is made up of a wild group of people, so it’s always a good time.”

Pep Band

     The most fun part about marching band for some students is playing in the stands. Pep band is a student run group that plays stand music for basketball games. Unlike football games, they are not allowed to play while the ball is in play. Only before the game, during halftime and after the game are they allowed to make music with their horns.

    Senior Donna Lonergan, the student who organized pep band this year, said “It sucks that we can’t play as frequently as we did for football, but those are the rules. If we play during the game then the players on the court will either get distracted or be unable to hear what their coaches are telling them. I don’t really think those would be problems, but I guess if I were ever on the court I would understand it a lot better.”

    Since this band is student run, there is more opportunity for them to express themselves through the music they play. In marching band, it’s up to the director to choose what songs to play. In pep band, students can look for their own scores and parts for songs they want to play. If they can find enough for the whole band, then everyone has a chance to play it. Donna, for example, added songs like “Sweet Caroline” and “Build Me Up Buttercup” to the band’s stand music repertoire.

Stage Band

    This is the school’s jazz band. It gives students a chance to play a different kind of music than they are used to. The audience at stage band concerts will distinctly notice the use of  brass instruments like trumpets and trombones. Every kind of saxophone gets to shine, as it’s probably the most famous jazz instrument. If you’ve ever been to the Art Show, you’ve already seen them perform.

    If you thought that concert band gave students lots of opportunities for solos, you’ll never believe stage band. Jazz is all about solos and showing off the virtuosity of your instrument. Everything from trumpets to trombones to saxophones to basses have their chance to shine.

    Tanya Johnson, a saxophone player in this band, said “I enjoy playing in the jazz genre of music. It’s overall more chill, and the music is great. I decided to join because I wanted to be a part of something more than just concert band.”

Pit Band

    Every year, the high school drama club puts on a musical. The musical needs actors on stage, stage crew backstage, and musicians in the pit. The variety of instruments varies depending on the musical being performed. Last year with How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, the music was very jazzy, so the instrumentation was very close to the stage band. This year with The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the music has a more classical feels and more prominently features instruments like violin, oboe and bassoon. The musicians in the pit vary from students, to teachers, to adults who just want to help out.

    The variety of adults and students give the students a chance to improve. Senior Victoria Oswald said, “Playing in pit band is cool because you see people implementing music into their everyday lives outside the realm of high school band. Mr. Babcock is a stellar guy, so playing with him specifically is fun. He is also insane on drum set, although that’s not an instrument I’m interested in playing.”

County Band

    County band is the lowest level that students have to audition to participate . Every year, the Schuylkill County Band auditions are held in the Pottsville Area High school. Students are held in the auditorium until it is their turn to audition, and then taken into a classroom with judges. Students have to learn an excerpt from a piece, scales and how to sight read. Once they enter the room, they will be scored based on their abilities in categories such as rhythm and intonation. If students rank high enough, they are allowed to play in county band. Once county band begins, there are re-auditions. These re-auditions determine seating in the band.

District Band, District Orchestra, and Beyond

    District Band is like county band, but across several counties. Because of how many more people there are, it is much harder to get in. Schuylkill County is located at the southern tip of District 10. Re-auditions at district band determine seating, but unlike county band, it also determines if students advance to the next level. After district band there is region band. After region band, students can go to state band or all-east band, containing students from other states surrounding Pennsylvania. This year, three students made district band: Grace Muench on saxophone and Grace Mongrain and Vanessa Biddle on clarinet.

    Region band is like district band, but the places students come from is a much larger area than before. Students who successfully re-audition at district band will receive their music after the concert and start practicing for regions. The re-audition process is repeated. Unlike regular auditions, re-auditions only require students to play an excerpt from their music and don’t require scales or sight reading. Repeat the process again, but this time students will either go to all-state band or all-east band. Students from this school have made it that far in the last, and there is no doubt that it will continue to happen for many years to come.

     District orchestra is essentially the same as district band, but it features string instruments like violin, viola, cello, and bass. The competition is much more fierce for wind and brass instruments, since while district band might take 30 clarinets, district orchestra will only take four. The only student from Pottsville to make district orchestra this year was Michael Johnson-Ponce on violin. Just like district band, there are higher levels to orchestra that students can reach by successfully re-auditioning at every step of the way.

    Former student Thomas Honiker made it to district band and orchestra throughout his four years of high school. He said “ Making district band for four years straight has certainly been an honor for me. For one, I worked very hard, practicing whenever possible to make it in. Seeing my efforts be successful was very rewarding. The real honor, however, was being able to play alongside many others who shared a similar love for music. PMEA District Band and Orchestra have always been amazing experiences, from the guest conductors, to the friends you make, to the music you create. I also made Region 5 Band and State Concert Band my senior year of high school. They have both been some of the best experiences of my life. It was always my goal to make states at some point, and my hard work paid off. Being in a band of that caliber, you really get a sense of all the amazing players around you, and you constantly get put on the spot, being asked what you can bring to the table. It’s a simultaneously humbling and honoring moment.”

Community Bands and Orchestras

    There are many community run bands in Schuylkill County. The most notable one would have to be Third Brigade. John Hannaway, trumpet player in this band, explains it best. “It’s a community band. We usually play over the summer and practice on Tuesdays. I love it. A whole bunch of people from our area who are decent musicians come and play, and we play some pretty tough music. Mr. Sterner, Bobby DiCello, Mr. Smink, the Horvaths, Mr. Seward, and Miss Freiler are in it. It is such a great band in my opinion. Mr Fries, the former band director at Pottsville is the conductor.” Just like in pit band, students in this band have the opportunity to learn from more experienced players in order to improve.

    Third Brigade isn’t the only community band in Schuylkill County for students to participate in. The Anthracite Wind Ensemble is a more student oriented group in our area. John Hannaway said, “It’s a group of college and high school musicians who get together every Saturday during the summer to prepare for a concert or two. It’s all students from our county, and it’s hosted at North Schuylkill and Blue Mountain.” This group is directed by Mr. Evans, the director at Blue Mountain, and Mr. Lennox, the director at North Schuylkill.

    This Gabriel Youth Orchestra is the only one of its kind in Schuylkill County. It allows young string players in this area the opportunity to play with a group. They practice on Wednesdays on the D.H.H.L. Middle School auditorium. In addition to their winter and spring concerts, they put on a concert for all of the fourth graders in the county.

   Autumn McDonough, a member of this orchestra, said “The obvious difference between orchestra and band is the presence of string instruments, so that adds color. But the experience of being in an orchestra is much different for my particular instrument. In orchestra, the flute is still used for melody, but generally has more background parts to make way for the added string parts. Playing and being more in the background is an interesting experience, and the difference between the two overall gives me a more rounded experience with playing.”

    The Anthracite Orchestra, unlike the wind ensemble, is not student oriented. It is a professional orchestra that some students have the opportunity to play in. Their concerts vary throughout the years, but they always have a winter concert and a Fourth of July concert. They occasionally even have a Halloween themed concert called “Spooky Strings.” Adults like Mr. Sterner play in the orchestra.

    Schuylkill County has many opportunities for students to play in bands and orchestras. Whether you play violin, trumpet, flute or piano, there is probably some group in the area for students to develop their musical talents