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Oxford musicians do well at district festival

Playing as part of the OHS Wind Ensemble are (from left) Erica Krol, Kristen Godwin and Nicole Allen. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
March 06, 2013 - Once again, Oxford High School's Wind Ensemble received straight 1's at the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association (MSBOA) district festival March 1-2.

"They actually (received) an 'A' in every category," said OHS Band Director Jim Gibbons. "They really, really did well."

Held at OHS, the festival featured 27 bands, ensembles and orchestras from eight school districts including Oxford, Imlay City, Dryden, Lapeer, Linden, Almont, Mt. Morris and Brandon.

Nine of the groups that performed were from Oxford high school and middle school.

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-reading.

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

The OMS eighth-grade band scored straight 2's, but Gibbons noted "it was a high 2."

He explained that "each judge gives a (letter) grade (of A through E) in five different categories. An 'A' represents a 1, a 'B' is a 2 and so on.

"We had A-'s and B+'s. If a couple of those B+'s had flipped to an A-, we'd get a 1. There were a lot of B+'s. They were close to a 1, but just fell a little bit short."

The OHS Symphonic Band scored a 1.

"They (received) two 1's and a 2 on stage, then a 1 in sight-reading, which is a 1 overall," Gibbons said.

The OHS Concert Band scored straight 2's.

"Again, that was on the high end of 2," Gibbons noted. "The judge even said, 'We really wanted to give (a 1) to you, but there were just a couple little things we couldn't overlook. There were a lot of B+'s on their (judging) sheet."

The OMS seventh-grade orchestra, scored straight 1's while the eighth-grade orchestra received all 2's for its performance and a 1 for its sight-reading. Both were under the direction of Nady Benyamine.

The OHS Symphony Strings got all 2's for the performance and a 1 for the sight-reading. The OHS Concert Orchestra scored a 2-2-1 for its performance and a 2 for sight-reading. Both were directed by Bill Milicevic.

Milicevic was full of praise for the orchestra students.

"I thought the judging was very fair and I'm extremely pleased with their progress," he said. "They've come a long way and the future is extremely promising."

"I'm very proud of all of them," he added.

Milicevic noted that having the seventh-graders receive straight 1's was "very unusual," given they're a group of first-year orchestra students.

"We are very, very pleased with it and that's kind of the direction that this whole (program) is going," he said. "Everything is improving."

Overall, Gibbons indicated he was "very pleased" with Oxford's showing at the festival. "I was extremely happy with all of the groups," he said.

Gibbons noted Oxford's performance was particularly impressive given the students missed six days of school due to severe winter weather.

"That was a week of rehearsal that we lost," he said.

Gibbons explained how festival is now held a couple weeks earlier than it was in the past, so there's already a "pretty short rehearsal window anyway."

"To lose a week of rehearsals (on top of that) and (earn) the scores that we did, I was very pleased," he said. "They all played very well and represented the school really well."

Gibbons looks at the festival results as "our version of the MEAP score."

"It (tells us) where we stand, how we are doing, what the overall direction of our program is," he said. "It's kind of a guidepost."

However, he noted that unlike the state's standardized test, festival ratings are "very subjective" because some judges are tougher to please than others.

"With the MEAP, you either got the question right or you got it wrong with the exception of (the) writing (portion)," Gibbons said.

That being said, Gibbons noted this year's judges were no pushovers. "All three of the concert judges were retired band directors who had good programs and who hold bands to a very high standard," he said. "They weren't, by any stretch of the imagination, giving away ratings. If you got a 1, you earned your 1."

Gibbons was very grateful to all the Oxford band parents and student workers who helped make it such a successful event by being gracious hosts to all the different musicians and visitors.

"One of the judges posted on Facebook what a great site it was and how well he was treated by our band parents," he said. "Another judge sent me an e-mail saying the same thing. That's unusual."

"The facility is great for running a festival and the parent volunteers and student workers that we have do a great job," Gibbons added. "It makes my job easy because I'm working with good people."

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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