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Wildcat musicians shine at district festival



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The OHS Wind Ensemble scored straight 1's at the MSBOA district festival. (click for larger version)
March 07, 2012 - Let's give a standing ovation to the Oxford High School Wind Ensemble for receiving straight 1's at the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association (MSBOA) district festival March 2-3.

Held at OHS, the festival featured 24 bands, ensembles and orchestras from eight school districts including Oxford, Dryden, Grand Blanc, Almont, Capac, Yale, Linden and Vassar. Eight of the groups that performed were from Oxford.

All of the other Oxford bands and orchestras that performed received overall ratings of 2. They included the seventh and eighth-grade orchestras, the seventh and eighth-grade bands along with the OHS Concert Band, Symphonic Band and Symphony Strings.

"I think overall, the bands and the orchestras did a very nice job," said OHS Band Director Jim Gibbons. "We played well and represented the school district very well. I was pleased. You always want to get 1's – the 1`is reserved for the 'top of the top' performance. But 2 is a very good score. I consider a 2 to be an excellent score."

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Groups at the festival are rated on a scale of 1-5 with 1 being the highest rating possible. Those who achieve this score are considered "superior."

Each group must perform three pieces of music, one of which must be from the MSBOA's required list.

Earning straight 1's, as the OHS Wind Ensemble did, means all three judges gave their performance a 1 and they received a 1 during their sight-readings.

A sight-reading is when a musician or group reads and performs a piece of written music they have never seen before.

"It was a tough sight (read)," Gibbons said. "There weren't a lot of 1's."

Gibbons noted how judging at these festivals is a "real subjective" thing.

"It just depends on where this panel of judges sets their own bar," he explained. "This was the toughest panel of judges that my bands have played in front of in probably 5-6 years. I don't say that to complain. These judges were real consistent with their ratings and I thought they did a nice job."

Participating in festival is a good way to help determine a band's progress since the beginning of the school year because they're being evaluated and critiqued by an outside professional.

"I'm very pleased with the progress the bands have made over the course of the year," Gibbons said. "If you look at it terms of 'Are the kids in a better place today than they were six months ago?' Absolutely, they are.

"To me, what's indicative of that is not necessarily the score, but do they sound better than they did in September. All three of my bands have made tremendous progress and really all eight of the ensembles that played (at festival) have made great progress this year."

Gibbons noted that unlike sports, there are no bench-warmers in band.

"You don't get to sit (out) anybody in band," he said. "A football team can have 40 kids on it, but at any given time, there's only 11 of them on the field. We don't have that challenge of saying we're going to pick our best 11 (to play). We put every kid in the game for every play. So, the band is only as strong as its weakest player.

"From an individual standpoint, (playing at festival) helps (each) player raise their level of performance because they know they have to do that in order to contribute to the overall group."

This was Oxford's fourth time hosting the MSBOA district festival. When asked why the MSBOA keeps returning to Wildcat country, Gibbons replied, "It's a combination of doing a nice job from a people standpoint – making them feel welcome – plus our facility."

"Within District 3 – which (consists of) the schools from Oxford north, kind of into the thumb (area) – I think we have one of the nicest performance facilities in terms of our auditorium," he said.

As always, Gibbons was extremely grateful to all the parent and student volunteers who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make the event such a success.

"It would be impossible to do it without them," he said. "I couldn't do it by myself . . . The work that they put in is what allows us to showcase the facility and our program."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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