Getting the high school honor band back together after three decades
Wilson High School sent five of its finest musicians to a one-time-only performance that marked the return of an All-City High School Honor Band for the first time in at least 30 years.
A few determined Portland Public School music teachers revived the tradition and, on the night of Jan. 23 the 65-piece orchestra joined with the 75 musicians in the All-City Middle School Honor Band to perform at the Jefferson High School Auditorium. (The Middle School Honor Band has endured through the years. No one is really sure why the High School Band Honor Band went out of existence back in the 1980s.)
Each Honor Band performed four contemporary orchestral pieces. Though the two bands will never play together again, that evening's performance has been saved for posterity on YouTube, where it can be seen and heard by entering Honor Band 2019.
According to Cleveland High School music teacher Gary Riler, 129 high school musicians applied to be in the Honor Band and 66 were selected. For middle school, 110 were nominated by their music teachers and, of those, 79 were selected. Every Portland public high school with a band program was represented.
The four musicians selected from Wilson High School went through two full days of rehearsals for the concert. They are currently rehearsing for the concert at Wilson on March 13. They spoke with the Southwest Connection before band class about the High School Honor Band experience.
ANTHONY PIACENTINI, one of six trombone players. "It was a good experience.We had a great time and it was fun coming together with other band students and making music. Good music. And it was a really good opportunity to meet other people that play the same instrument. It was really fun. I play in the Metropolitan Youth Symphony Orchestra which is mostly strings with a small brass section so it was to play in a big band."
OLI DEVEREUX, one of four tuba players. "It was super fun. A really great experience. Everyone was there to hunker down and play some great music but at the same time there was a lot of community going on, a lot of team building. The music wasn't super technically difficult but it was just super cool to see everyone kind of come together."
BECCA MERKEL, one of eight trumpet players. "Musically, it was really, really fun because we got to look at the music before we got to learn it the way we needed to learn it. And it was really fun to have that many people playing. It was really good instrumentation. My sister played with the Middle School Honors Band that night so that was nice." (Her sister is Katie Merkel, Clarinet, Robert Gray Middle School)
KELSON GIPP, one of five french horn players. "The teachers for those two days were really exciting and the music was more advanced than we usually see. Everyone had the skills and abilities so they were able to bring it together so quickly. There were people of different skill levels but we were all able to share our different techniques and methods of performing. It was nice to see where other people are at musically."
These are the students from Robert Gray and Jackson Middle School who performed in the All-City Middle School Honor Band.
ROBERT GRAY MIDDLE SCHOOL
Lucas Flangon, Eyla Mitchell: Flute. Lila DeCarlo: Oboe. Peter Platosh: Bass Clarinet. Cate Latimer: Percussion. Margot Pullen: Trumpet. Katie Merkel: Clarinet. Helen Brodahl: Alto Saxophone.
JACKSON MIDDLE SCHOOL
Evie Larson: Oboe. Sam Grommes: Bassoon. Oscar Smiley: Euphonium. Alex Peltz : Percussion. Clara Cywinski, Ella Poor: Trombones.