Archive for Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Lawrence bands hit high note

Festival placings continue high schools’ march toward excellence

October 25, 2006


It's a decades-old Lawrence tradition: outstanding high school marching bands.

"It easily goes back into the '40s and possibly before that," said Bob Foster, former director of bands at Kansas University. "This place has a longer tradition than most places do."

The latest evidence of this ongoing excellence: Lawrence High School's marching band took top honors at the Heart of America competition Saturday at KU. About 20 bands competed, and LHS was named best in class and swept the other major awards. Free State High School's band took third.

Band directors, school administrators, parents and student musicians said the city's outstanding bands have a lot to do with Lawrence itself: The city's in tune to music and the arts.

"And when push comes to shove, you've got great teachers in the district," said Mike Jones, who has led the LHS Marching Lions to several honors this semester. "The junior highs are the foundation that makes these bands strong."

Another key is that so many students want to be in choir and band or choir and orchestra.

"I love having the choir kids in band because they know what tone is like and they're in tune. And I know Cathy Crispino (LHS music and vocal teacher) likes having band kids in her choir because they read music well and they understand rhythms," Jones said. "So both of them together is a pretty powerful combination that's really not replicated very much anywhere throughout the state."

Parental support

Earlier this year, at a parent gathering, Jones had students line up their parents with instruments so parents could get a feel for the work it takes.

Mary Lee Norris, whose son Ian Nelson is a senior on the drum line, laughed when she recalled carrying her son's heavy cymbals and trying to march diagonally - and backward - at the same time.

"You really appreciate what they're doing," Norris said.

Cindy Monshizadeh, whose son Peter plays trumpet, said the discipline of the band helps students throughout their lives to achieve a goal.

And parents try to provide the support that band members need, Monshizadeh said.

Robin Jacobsen, whose husband, Terry, is president of the band's parent organization, said parents prepare food for band members when they travel, serve as bus chaperones and raise funds. And they do a lot of small things. For example, on Monday night, parents decorated the seniors' lockers.

Free State, too

Across town at Free State, Randy Fillmore, who's in his second year as band director, said the secret is the students' pride and enthusiasm.

Lawrence High marching band

Lawrence High's marching band at the City Showdown with Free State on October 20, 2006. Enlarge video

"They're very dedicated. They are willing to put in long hours to achieve their goals," Fillmore said.

Fillmore and Jones said their bands have been practicing since the first two weeks of August, when camps took place at the two schools.

Free State's 170 band members have gone through three competitions this school year, Fillmore said.

At the Blue Valley High School competition, which featured about 20 bands, Free State was fourth in its class and eighth overall. At the Lee's Summit, Mo., festival, which featured 26 bands, Free State finished second.

LHS has participated in two competitions so far this year and has a third coming up.

Free State marching band

Free State's marching band at the Heart of America Marching Festival, held on October 21, 2006. Enlarge video

In the Blue Valley competition, the Marching Lions took first place in their division in the preliminary round and second place overall.

The 165 LHS band members are getting ready for their final competition, which will be Saturday at the Neewollah Festival in Independence, Kan.

Joe Snyder, Free State principal, said parent involvement is a major factor in continuing a quality program.

"Music's a big deal in this community, and I think that gets translated to the schools," Snyder said.

Steve Nilhas, LHS principal, said the band is involved in football, basketball, assemblies and homecoming.

"It's just totally, totally interwoven into the fabric of this school," Nilhas said.


SteelHorseRider 11 years, 7 months ago

It is about time LJW finally gets some coverage on this great event!

Congratulations to both high schools for their achievements thus far.

They work very hard ALL YEAR long to garner a little praise for thier efforts.

Kookamooka 11 years, 7 months ago

I love getting to watch clips in action with music and color and movement. Way to go ljworld!

JustLovingIt 11 years, 7 months ago

Great Coverage! Great Bands! Great Music! Great Marching! Great Teachers! and Great Kids!

LJWorld has hit a home run with this....It is so enjoyable to see something so positive grace the front page!

Its just GREAT!

mom_of_three 11 years, 7 months ago

Unless a band gets invited to one of the bowl games, bands do not get coverage for their accomplishments. It must be an unwritten rule for all newspapers.
As a former band member, you aren't in it for the praise of others, because you aren't going to get it. (Parents don't count) You're in it because you love it.

BigAl 11 years, 7 months ago

Thanks Journal World. Both of our high schools have excellent bands and they score highly everytime they participate in competition, year after year. These are good kids that work their tails off. It's about time they received some recognition from people other than the parents. Great job LHS and LFSHS!!!!

abckid6 11 years, 6 months ago

Congrats LJWorld on finally giving fair coverage to all the kids in the high school system. All of these adults whining on here need to just respect how awesome these two bands are. As a rescent LHS band alum I want to personally congratulate them on such an outstanding season. Most of us have no idea how huge of an accomplishment winning heart of america is, so congrats!

sourpuss 11 years, 7 months ago

I was on the LHS drumline back in the day and we were always very proud of our achievements. It is great to see this story in the paper. Band members work very hard, but have a lot of fun doing it. I always enjoyed the competitions more than playing at the games. Games are practice in the end. Marching in the parades was the worst, but then again, I had to carry drums...

kansasnative 11 years, 6 months ago

I went to the Portland Rose Festival as a Marching Lion over 20 years ago (*yikes) and we were "IT" back then too - it is amazing to see the tradition continue. The Lions (and now the FSHS Band, of course) know what hard work means and the continued honors show it! CONGRATS!

Jd Finch 11 years, 6 months ago

How can you not win honors when the guy leading you is named Mike Jones? Who? Mike Jones. Who?? Mike Jones.

Amanda Woodward Davis 11 years, 6 months ago

Mike Jones is the name of a rapper also. . . that's what he was referring to :)

johnadavies 11 years, 6 months ago

I've always been proud of the talent and traditions of the LHS Band and even more so now that they've been recognized for all their hard work and dedication!

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