"This year was different"

Posted by Adam Bernick - 07 March, 2011

For the second year in a row, the 7th/8th Grade Band and the Upper School Band both received overall “Superior” ratings by a panel of collegiate adjudicators.  The bands, led by Jennifer Ragsdale and Adam Bernick, performed for the public at Huntsville High School, along with other area school bands from Madison, Morgan, and Limestone Counties.  The 7th/8th Grade Band performed Regal Fanfare, Blue Ridge Impressions, and Thunderbird.  The Upper School Band performed Newcastle March, Among the Clouds, and Two Irish Sketches.

Mr. Bernick’s letter to his band gives us insights into all that is involved in such an accomplishment and why this year was different.

Dear Randolph Upper School Band,

Over the past couple of days I’ve experienced a whirlwind of emotions.  In the past when we have prepared for our Music Performance Assessment I have been a bit anxious, a bit stressed out, and often nervous.  This year was different.  I did have those feelings, but I was more confident and more content with our preparation process.  We have had some of the very best rehearsals ever during the last few weeks.  I have had high expectations for you and you have had high expectations for yourselves.  More than anything, I felt a great sense of joy and happiness these last few weeks because everyday has been a day when we’ve experienced growth and improvement.  I have enjoyed the learning process with you this year more than ever.

When we perform at the Music Performance Assessment, we get a snapshot of our overall program.  The judges don’t know that we’ve missed rehearsals for snow days or that many of our students compete in science competitions, foreign language nights, take multiple AP courses, participate in cross-country, basketball, baseball, softball, football, scouts, dance, church, tutoring, community service, etc.  The judges don’t know when we have students who make All-State Band or perform in Washington D.C. in concerto competitions.  They don’t know when we have new students to the program or students who are learning or re-learning a new instrument.  In a way, the MPA event is a strange thing to wrap your brain around.  How do you prepare for something that is simply a snapshot of everyday life?

Recently, you have developed a rehearsal schedule, technique, and etiquette that have allowed you to do well.  You are making music every day in class.  You are playing great literature and you are playing it at a high level.  Sure there are mistakes, but every day you have worked to fix those mistakes and to perform like an ensemble and bring the literature to life.  You listen to each other and support each other.  You work really hard.

I have always said that the ratings don’t matter.  And they don’t!  No four judges can truly know our accomplishments as we do.  We know how hard we have struggled with the fugue section (m. 102) in  Among the Clouds.  We know how hard it has been to make every note length the same in the march.  We know how hard it has been to find the spirit of Two Irish Sketches.  We know how hard it has been to perform at a high level every single day in class.  Those are the real accomplishments – not the ratings.  The ratings don’t matter!

We received many great comments from the judges.  I agree with much of what they have to say.  They were critical of all bands this year and were not easy, despite the snow days.  They have judged bands as they hear them.  One at a time.  Like a snapshot of a program.

While the comments are the most important thing for our musical growth, your highly public performance is very important for our school and our school’s band program.  You were disciplined today.  You were focused.  You did today what you have done each day over the last several weeks.  You wanted it badly and you performed your best.  This is why you are a superior band.

All four judges (three on-stage judges, one sight reading judge) gave you a “Superior” rating.  Today you walked away with four “I” ratings.  Congratulations for being a Superior Band today and for being a Superior Band every day over the last several weeks.

Congratulations to both the Upper School Band and the Middle School Band for receiving overall Superior Ratings, for the second year in a row.  You deserve this wonderful honor and I can’t wait for our next rehearsal!  I look forward to many more musical moments and many more wonderful rehearsals with you this year.

Adam Bernick
Director of Visual and Performing Arts

Topics: 7th grade, 8th grade, bands, Middle School, Upper School

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