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Middle and High School Bands Prepare for Small Performances
Middle and High School Bands Prepare for Small Performances
Posted on 03/02/2021
This year's All-County band events will be replaced by smaller Solo and Ensemble performances.Featured Photos: 1. Roberson sophomore Emma Nichols practices with a percussion ensemble. 2. Roberson Director of Bands Jim Kirkpatrick directs a small ensemble in the hallway outside his band room. 3. Students practice in hallways in preparation for upcoming Solo and Ensemble performances.

By: Benjamin Rickert
BCS Communications Dept.

A dissonant whir of melodies bounced along the corridors outside Jim Kirkpatrick’s band room last week at T.C. Roberson High School. Several small student ensembles were spread out in hallways, open areas, or corners of the band room, and the sounds of distant instruments combined in the spaces between them.

Sophomore percussionist Emma Nichols was glad to be back with Roberson's Concert Band under Plan B, which began the week of Feb. 15.

“I think music just helps overall. It just makes me happier,” she said.

Jim Kirkpatrick directs a small ensemble in the hallway of T.C. Roberson High School.Each ensemble practiced a unique piece for an upcoming adjudicated musical event. Instead of multiple schools gathering for Buncombe County’s traditional All-County concerts this semester, middle and high school bands will participate in smaller school-level Solo and Ensemble events held March 29-31. This gives students the opportunity to learn challenging music and be evaluated by visiting professionals. It also adds some distance during the pandemic.

"It is important for our students to realize that they are still a part of our community and that we as a district value the arts despite the limitations COVID-19 has placed on us," said BCS Arts Specialist Laura Mitchell. "Our teachers are reimagining this year's All-County events in all areas of the arts, ensuring that they are safe, meaningful, and memorable. This also includes our All-County Chorus event on March 10th, where choral groups will participate in a virtual master class and recording project."

To learn their parts, the Roberson students set daily, weekly, and long-term performance goals. These goals were written on post-it notes and then arranged on the band room's walls. Breaking up a large goal into pieces has helped students progress at the right pace in class and kept the ensembles on track during asynchronous or off-site learning days.

“We’re taking it slow and steady the first week, and then the next week we’re bumping up the tempo on the metronome,” explained Nichols. “We’re not trying to get it done all at once. We’re taking it slow to make it precise.”

Jim Kirkpatrick directs a small ensemble in the hallway of T.C. Roberson High School.When they finally perform for the judges, students will be evaluated on their accuracy, tone quality, expression, articulation, and artistry.

“It’s about their ability to bring the music to life,” said Kirkpatrick, Roberson’s Director of Bands. “We try to give students a manageable amount of work, but also have them play their instruments a lot. We feel we’ve missed some quality time as a large ensemble, and we’re working to make up for it with smaller ensembles.”

For Nichols, making music with her peers again has been refreshing. But she is also grateful for the lengths her director has gone to keep the band connected and learning over the past several months.

“I don’t think he knows how much we appreciate him. It’s nice to see how much he’s putting into the band during these times,” she said.

Kirkpatrick explained that the benefits of performing together again have been two-fold.

“The cool thing about the arts is that the students choose to be part of it. It’s like choosing a family, in a way,” he said. “So when they come together to make music, they are reaching out to each other on a different level. But they’re also learning how to respond to music, which kicks in all of those cool feelings that you get when you are experiencing music.”

Since students returned to in-person learning in reduced numbers, safety has been a shared focus.

“Keeping everyone safe is the number one priority and students have embraced that,” Kirkpatrick added. “They know that the key to making music together is following the three Ws.”

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The three Ws are 1) Wear a face covering, 2) Wait at least six feet apart, and 3) Wash your hands frequently.

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