When the Skyline band program stages its winter concert Dec. 18, the school’s auditorium will be resounding with music from a grand mix of musically gifted students.
It is that combination of freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors that is so important to the group. It enables an integration into high school for the young students and offers the experienced members a chance to mentor.
Skyline band director Jason Smith draws great satisfaction from watching his students improve musically as they progress from year to year, but just as important to Smith and his students is the orchestration of relationships and lasting friendships.
“The social aspect is a very important part of being in band,” said David Arnett, a 17-year-old senior percussionist who was center snare during the marching season. “I’ve been in the band all four years in high school and when you’re a freshmen coming in, you really don’t know what high school is all about. The more experienced kids make it a point to kind of show you the way. It really makes a difference. It did to me.”
There are 150 students in the band program at Skyline – 119 were in marching band this past season. This, compared to 33 band members when Skyline opened in 2008.
Smith fosters the social aspect of his band, partly because it is essential due to the amount of time the group spends together. There is work to be done the entire school year, and it actually starts before students come to Skyline in the fall. Each summer, the band travels to Center for the Arts Camp in Interlochen for a weeklong working trip to prepare for the upcoming musical season.
“We had about 120 kids go to Interlochen this year, and you can’t put on paper the importance – both socially and getting ready for the year — of the week there,” said Smith, who has been the band director at Skyline since the school opened its doors. “The kids are in cabins together all week, they’re together all day and all night and they really get to know each other. We spend a lot of time together throughout the year, and band camp is the start of that fellowship that lasts throughout the entire year.”
Lest you think band is one big social event, take a look at the group’s schedule. It is a fully accredited class broken into three semesters, the band holds 3-hour Wednesday evening practices during marching season, it performs at all home football games, the homecoming parade, pep assemblies, there are extra-curricular individual competitions that members are encouraged to participate in, and there also are various concerts and other performances throughout the year.
It can be a grind at times, and if camaraderie wasn’t part of the equation, chaos might be the outcome.
“There’s a lot of hard work, but it’s fun at the same time,” said Emma Rose Carpenter, a 16-year-old junior who plays piccolo during the marching season and flute during concert season. “If you didn’t get along with the people you were with, I can imagine it wouldn’t be much fun. But that’s not the case. It’s a great atmosphere.”
The social aspect is important, but music is what it’s all about. Smith, as you might imagine, has been a music man his entire life. He earned his bachelor’s degree in music from Michigan State University in 2004, and got a masters from the University of Michigan in 2008.
“I love to watch a student improve, musically, I draw a lot of satisfaction from that,” Smith said. “No matter where they start, ability-wise, all of them have the chance to get better as time progresses. They come from different middle schools, they have been playing for different lengths of times, they have different talent levels, but all of them can get better.”
Carpenter has progressed from a beginning flute player in the fourth grade to an experience musician several years later, and she has loved every step of the progression.
“There’s a certain beauty in music,” she said. “It lets you convey your emotions in the way you play. It’s a big part of my life and I’m very grateful for music.”
Whether it be drumlines outside Skyline before football games in the fall, or playing various percussion instruments during concert season, Arnett also looks at music as a unique outlet.
“Marching band and concert band are two entirely different experiences, but they are each a lot of fun in their own way,” Arnett said. “You’re outside, active, marching, during the marching season, and it’s different during concert season, but still fun.”
Fun seems to be the operative word for members of the Skyline band, and they somehow mix it with a lot of work. The outcome is a yearlong display of music in and around Skyline High School. The next display is Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. in the auditorium for the band’s winter concert. Free of charge.
For more information on the Skyline band, go to http://skylinehsband.weebly.com/