West Salem High band wins 8th straight state title

Correction: The West Salem High School band has now won eight championships in a row. Here's a Statesman Journal feature from last year:

SALEM, Ore. --  West Salem High School’s band broke two records and made one judge cry at the OSAA Band State Championships on Saturday in Corvallis.

The Titans claimed an unprecedented seventh OSAA band championship in a row. The previous record of six consecutive titles was held by South Salem High School (2003-2008). Mary Lou Boderman, the Salem-Keizer School District’s music and theater arts director, was the band director at South during that streak.

“I couldn’t be more proud,” Boderman said of West’s record-breaking win. “West Salem has built an outstanding tradition. If (the record) has to go to someone, I’m glad it’s going to someone in Salem-Keizer.”

Sam Barlow High School of Gresham placed second. McNary High School placed third. West Linn and Southridge (Beaverton) high schools took fourth and fifth places respectively. McKay, North Salem and South Salem gave strong performances but did not place.

The music and emotions were intense. During the sight-reading portion of the competition, in which bands play a piece of music they’ve never seen, West Salem moved the judge to tears. The result was another record: a perfect sight-reading score of 60.

Chuck Bolton, state championship director, said, “I’m pretty sure that’s never happened.” It’s the only perfect score Bolton’s seen in 18 years of chairing the championships. Bolton and Todd Zimbelman, West’s director, independently confirmed that the sight-reading adjudicator cried.

“I’m just so proud of these students,” Zimbelman said. “I don’t know that anybody has an idea of what it takes to get to that level every single year. Every year, they’re willing to work that hard.

“You might have a special group of kids that works really hard one time or twice, but seven years in a row, that’s pretty remarkable.”

West performed a diverse and difficult set that included Camille Saint-Saens’ “Pas Redouble,” Ryan George’s “Riff Raff,” Wayne Oquin’s “Affirmation” and John Mackey’s “Kingfishers Catch Fire, Movement II.”

Senior Cory Francis, trombone, said Zimbelman’s teaching and care were central to the Titans’ success.

“He’s shown us about music, about style, and motivates all of us to get better and to be at the level we are today. This band program has changed my work ethic,” Francis said. “I’m going to remember this the rest of my life. It’s a once in a lifetime experience.”

West's symphony wins state championship; McKay, Sprague place
McNary’s third-place band also had a unique experience. Director Jennifer Bell has been teaching about half of her band’s graduating seniors since they began playing instruments in fifth grade. Before she was at McNary, Bell taught at Claggett Creek Middle School, which included fifth grade band for Cummings and Kennedy elementary schools.

“You remember those moments where they couldn’t do something and you get them to the point where they have complete control of the instrument. They are able to control music effortlessly. It’s fantastic,” Bell said. “Having eight years of consistent emotion and relationship building, it’s been a remarkable experience.”

McNary senior Kendall Quihuis-Ramirez, clarinet, has studied with Bell for eight years.

“It goes so far beyond music to teaching us to be better people,” Quihuis-Ramirez said. “Her standards, they always go up. But you know at the same time that you are good enough for her … Music is not always easy, but because it’s so hard, that’s what makes performing music great.”

McNary senior Riley Hamilton, trombone, said Saturday’s performance was the best he’s experienced in eight years with Bell.

“It’s an honor to be there when she’s starting her career. I have no doubt that she’s going to go on and be one of those legendary Oregon teachers who wins championship after championship and is a perennial placer. I’ll be able to brag to my kids someday that I played for her,” Hamilton said.

McNary’s third-place band also had a unique experience. Director Jennifer Bell has been teaching about half of her band’s graduating seniors since they began playing instruments in fifth grade. Before she was at McNary, Bell taught at Claggett Creek Middle School, which included fifth grade band for Cummings and Kennedy elementary schools.

“You remember those moments where they couldn’t do something and you get them to the point where they have complete control of the instrument. They are able to control music effortlessly. It’s fantastic,” Bell said. “Having eight years of consistent emotion and relationship building, it’s been a remarkable experience.”

McNary senior Kendall Quihuis-Ramirez, clarinet, has studied with Bell for eight years.

“It goes so far beyond music to teaching us to be better people,” Quihuis-Ramirez said. “Her standards, they always go up. But you know at the same time that you are good enough for her … Music is not always easy, but because it’s so hard, that’s what makes performing music great.”

McNary senior Riley Hamilton, trombone, said Saturday’s performance was the best he’s experienced in eight years with Bell.

“It’s an honor to be there when she’s starting her career. I have no doubt that she’s going to go on and be one of those legendary Oregon teachers who wins championship after championship and is a perennial placer. I’ll be able to brag to my kids someday that I played for her,” Hamilton said.

South Salem’s wind ensemble kicked off the band competition at 8 a.m. Senior Robert Elliott worked until 10 p.m. Friday night and woke up at 3:30 a.m. to make it to South by 5 a.m. for a rehearsal and the bus ride to Corvallis. South gave a rousing performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story.”

“It’s the best we’ve performed on that stage,” Elliott said. “I don’t care what happens with the awards. We had fun and it felt like the audience had fun. We conveyed emotion and a message through our music.”

Ben Stokes, South’s director, said, “They played their hearts out. What more could I ask for? We walked out of the performance feeling great and walked out of sight reading feeling greater … They are full of the world, and that’s why we do what we do.”

Sprague senior Elizabeth Soper made the early morning trip to support South. Soper pinned boutonnieres on the Saxons before their performance, a magnanimous gesture after Sprague’s band had been disqualified, because an academically ineligible student performed at districts.

“The state festival isn’t about the competition. It’s about supporting the other bands and watching them show how much they grew throughout the year. While we can’t perform today, we still want to support the other bands,” Soper said.

The other Sprague students arrived in time for North Salem’s performance. In the warm-up room, Brian Bell, North’s director, said to his students, “It’s about making a musical moment that people are going to talk about and remember, including you … Have a great time. Create a memory.”

North senior Hannah Kutten, clarinet, did just that.

“We try to show our audience how much we love our music and play with musicality,” Kutten said. “Musicality is all about conveying emotion.”

A moment in McKay’s performance of “Song for Lyndsay” by Andrew Boysen stirred McKay senior Ralph Musni’s emotions. The piece gave him chills. “That’s what I play for,” Musni said.

He also performed a superb clarinet solo in Frank Ticheli’s “Blue Shades.” He thought it was one of McKay’s cleanest concerts, but that there were still a few “little blips.”

“The band sounds good but the band doesn’t think that, and that’s what keep us going,” Musni said. “The moment you think you sound good, you stop improving. If you don’t think you’re perfect, there’s always room to improve.”

It’s that attitude that drives the musical excellence at McKay and throughout Salem-Keizer.

“The quality of performances by all of our Salem-Keizer groups today showed tremendous perseverance, work ethic and attention to detail,” Boderman said. “The most exciting thing is always to see the looks on the students’ faces when they come off the stage when they know they’ve done their best. That’s pretty awesome.”

TRastrelli@StatesmanJournal.com, 503-983-6030, facebook.com/RastrelliSJ and onTwitter @RastrelliSJ

OSAA Band State Championships results

5A Band Division

1st - Summit
2nd - Ridgeview
3rd - Corvallis
4th - Wilsonville
5th - St. Helens
5th - Crescent Valley
4A Band Division

1st - North Bend
2nd - Philomath
3rd - Scappoose
4th - Douglas
5th - Cascade
3A Band Division

1st - Pleasant Hill
2nd - Warrenton
3rd - Rainier
4th - Amity
2A/1A Band Division

1st - Bandon
2nd - Oakland
3rd - Triad
4th - Riddle
5th - Crosshill Christian


 

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