Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Swiss Point Bands Turn Uncertain Week into Superior Performances

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Swiss Point Bands Turn Uncertain Week into Superior Performances

Article excerpt

Byline: kevin clark

When Switzerland Point Middle School's band director was accused of taking improper photos of students, charged with several misdemeanor counts by the Sheriff's Office, and unanimously fired by the School Board earlier this month, much more than just his career came to a screeching halt.

The 279 music students, and their goals to perform at a high level during a planned concert festival hosted by the school, also seemed on the verge of going flat.

Academic subjects have the FCAT each year to measure how well or how poor students are learning. Band classes have the yearly concert festival, and you'll find no less pressure nor fewer ounces of drive to succeed in the students who commit to sitting behind each sturdy black music stand.

For those unfamiliar with such events, here's a primer: Band directors select three pieces (one of them is always a "march" tune) and spend weeks of classroom time working with students to turn cracked notes and rushed tempos into something extraordinary. Three judges, sitting in designated thrones amongst the audience chairs, decide if the group achieves its melodious pinnacle.

There's also a "sightreading" tune to perform, or one the students haven't seen until the day of the festival. Imagine learning algebra to prepare for FCAT math questions, only to have the last five questions involve trigonometry, and you understand sightreading.

So there's much to do before the big show, and big rewards for those who succeed. Bands who perform the best are rated with a "1" or "superior." The higher the number, the poorer the performance, at least in the eyes of three judges. These ratings are important to the students, the parents and especially the director.

Unless that director suddenly disappears. The Switzerland Point students, just a week or so before their moments of truth, had no band leader.

School officials enlisted the help of Bartram Trail's capable band directors, Jason Duckett, and Rick Fowler to help instruct the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade bands. They also moved the festival to the high school's auditorium.

This might seem like no big deal but teachers, no matter the subject, can have their own styles. …

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