Five band directors in five years. Each one contributing more or less than the last. The common trend? Each year the number of students decreases by half. This is what I’m dealing with, and as a raging band geek it’s horribly frustrating.
Allow me to bring you back to what I loveingly refer to as “The Henderson Times”. A time when the band empire of Sisters, Oregon was ruled by a dictator of showmanship; a dictator beloved by his hundreds of subjects. His name was Henderson, and he was the proud band director of the Sisters high school Outlaws for 15 years. Henderson was a winner. He coached winners. All he cared for were the winners. I, ladies and gentlemen, was not considered a winner. I did not initially have the natural talent or panache like that of Henderson’s “Golden Children” when I first picked up a flute in the fifth grade. So, my dear friends, I flew under the radar for the abundance of my middle school band career. This, of course, was easy to do when there were an average of fifty students in each grades band.
Then, as a Freshman I had a different band teacher for the first time ever. This, of course was brought about by a scandelous affair and divorce that caused Henderson to pack up and move all the way across the country. So, our school found an emergency relacement to fill the position as band director for a year until a permanent director could be found. His name was Summers; a former member of the millitary band and obviously qualified. However, this is the year I refer to as “The Endless Summer” due to the fact that nothing was accomplished. This is where the rapid decrease in bandies started. The shear fact that Henderson left made a solid chunk of our band vanish into thin air, then the fact that that Summers decided that he couldn’t possibly accomplish anything in one year cut our band size in half.
The Endless Summer wasn’t all bad though. In the spring term of that year, when there were only three bandies still enrolled in band, a group of various musicians (who were all reletively in the same group of friends) joined band. Simply for kicks and giggles. These were the kids who played rock in their garages on the weekends. I was instantly fascinated and quickly got drawn into this group. To me it was like a whole new world. One day one of these guys invited me to go to a shins concert with him. Long story short: He’s my boyfriend now.
Next year came. Another new band teacher. Hardly any bandies left.
Lia Morgan was her name, and being amazing was her game. Possibly the greatest woman I’ve ever met. She truly cared about every single one of us (even though there weren’t many) and she pushed the program. She wanted us to succeed. However, let’s just say that those who couldn’t take the heat got out of the kitchen. This spectacle of a band director taught me how to play sax in September of that year and introduced me to jazz. By December that year I was playing 1st Alto and playing at the Oregon Jazz Festival. No other director ever let me play sax.
What we accomplished my sophomore year in band was incredible for the size we were. The work that was put into it all is more than exhausting just to think about. Then tragedy struck. The band program got cut back to a “half time possition” whatever the hell that means. Basically Lia couldn’t support herself and her husband off of a half time salary so she had to resign and take a job in Washington. Thus ended an era. “The Age of Promise”.
That brings us to present day. As of right now we have another one year replacement (her name is Steiger), barely any bandies (about 7), and a whole lot of lost hope. I still want to make it in jazz, which is nearly impossible in Sisters, Oregon. Next year there will be another director. I will be a senior, and it’s acutely depressing.
For those unfamiliar with the little spit of town known as Sisters (60 miles west of Brothers), it has a population just around 2,000. We’re famous for our quilt show and our folk festival. At my high school we have a special program that was started here called “The Americana Project” that is basically a class that teaches kids how to play guitar and write songs and be folk artists with a hipster twist. To be honest the Americana children all sound great but every single one sounds the same. That is why I call them drones. There is no individuality at all. Basically, all Sisters high school is about is American and art. I want everyone to embrace the obscue and forgotten arts like I have but originallity seems to be a forgotten concept.
This is where I’m at. The tempo needs to pick up or I might drown in the noise.