When it comes to the Father Gabriel Richard High School band program, “Energy” is the word of the day. What day, you say?
“Oh, it’s definitely a high-energy operation,” said Genevieve Williams, a 17-year-old senior who has been playing the flute for eight years. “That energy includes the students and (Band Director) Mr. (David) Yule. He has to have a lot of energy to keep up with us.
“He doesn’t just stand around and direct us. He even plays drums in our Pep Band.”
Williams is called the “Band Mom” by her musical mates because she has been in the FGR band program longer than any of the other 23 members. The flautist has been in the FGR High School band since she was a freshman, and also was in the middle-school band.
“The ‘Band Mom’ thing is an inside joke that just kind of evolved,” Williams said. “You know how there are soccer moms? Well, I’m a band mom.”
And, for the record, there is a “Band Dad.” That title goes to junior Trevor Miller, another experienced band member.
It is this kind of joking, camaraderie and energy that comprises the rebirth of the Father Gabriel Richard band program. Twenty-four members of a concert band with strings may not seem like much, but it is a monumental step from where the program has been in the past few years. And, there is even that lively Pep Band that plays at home boys’ and girls’ basketball games.
“I remember in 2014, I went to see my brother in the choir, and there were only three musicians that played – a pianist, a cellist and a violinist,” Williams said. “There really wasn’t even a band.
“To see where we are today is just a joy.”
Yule was hired as band director at FGR at the end of last school year after spending the previous 5 years growing the band from a low of 14 to a high of 60 members at Riverview Gabriel Richard. He obviously knows a thing or two about growing a band program. His high-energy style clicks with kids, and it is already producing numbers at FGR – not to mention quality performances.
“We have a new principal, and I’m a new band director, so it really is a brand new start for the band,” Yule said. “The past couple of years there were 8-10 members, and we’re up to 24 this year. We have some long-term goals, and we’re off to a really good start.”
One of those long-term goals is a 5-year plan that eventually comes to fruition with forming a marching band at Father Gabriel Richard. Yule acknowledges there is plenty of growth that needs to happen, but he says there is a sufficient talent pool at FGR.
“You can see it already among the kids we have in the band,” Yule said. “Everyone is getting better, everyone is enthusiastic. There is all kinds of energy, and you can feel it in the performances.”
Sophomore Apria Moe, 15, is in her first year at Father Gabriel Richard after transferring from Brighton High School, where she was part of a 274-member marching band. To go from such a huge group to the small program at FGR took some getting used to, but the fifth-year flute player says she feels right at home.
“Because our numbers are small, we’re able to get individual attention when we make mistakes, Mr. Yule can really work closely with us,” Moe said. “And, it’s amazing with the little instrumentation we have that we’re able to produce great music.”
Some of that great music was on display in December at Father Gabriel Richard’s Christmas Concert. The concert band played four pieces including, “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” which was narrated by Principal Chris Dotson. The band also accompanied the choir for a performance of “Classic Christmas.”
There is more excitement on tap for the band in the months ahead. A handful of members will compete in a Michigan School Band & Orchestra Association competition in February, and the band will compete as a whole in a MSBO event in March.
And, then, of course, comes the Spring Concert at 7 p.m., Wednesday May 2 in the multipurpose room. The band will play five pieces – three from the MSBO festival, and two others. Admission is free.
“I’ve had parents come up to me with smiles on their faces, and say they didn’t even know we had a band,” Yule said. “I take this as a good sign because they always follow that with how much they liked hearing us.
“We’re a hidden gem right now, but we’re growing, and we’re adding new experiences for students. And, we’ve got a great group of kids.”
A great group of kids, all right. And they’re bursting with energy.
For more information on the Father Gabriel Richard band program, go tohttp://fgrhs.org/instrumental/