Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



COURTESY OF BRANT STAI - Brant Stai, who has been at Sherwood High School for two years and previously worked at Laurel Ridge Middle School, directs one of the SHS award-winning bands at a concert.Sherwood High School bands, ensembles and soloists are marching into the record books for awards under the direction of Brant Stai, who himself snagged a prestigious award this year.

The SHS band program gave a total of 66 performances during the 2014-15 school year, and the bands, various ensembles and soloists brought home a trophy case full of awards.

Linda Karceski, a parent, wrote of Stai, “He has done some amazing things in just two short years, with the various band programs offered. I believe this year he had the highest number of SHS students ever to participate in the district level solo and ensemble competition, with quite a few of those students moving on to the state level and placing at the state solo and ensemble competition.

“This year the wind ensemble competed for the first time in the 6A Three Rivers League, coming in first place and automatically qualifying for the state championships… The marching band also had an extremely successful season, not to mention the winter percussion programs, both at the high school and middle schools… ”

This fall Stai is starting his third year at SHS, but he was already very familiar to music students and their families in the Sherwood School District after leading the band program at Laurel Ridge Middle School for three years until he was laid off due to budget cuts.

When Stai’s LRMS position was on the chopping block, dozens of his students showed up at a School Board meeting to plead with the Board of Directors to keep him but to no avail.

As a band musician himself, Stai easily relates to his students. He started playing the clarinet in his school band in the fifth grade and continued all through high school, knowing he wanted to make music his career.

After earning a bachelor of music education degree from the University of Oregon and a master’s degree from the American Band College in Ashland, Stai, after LRMS, worked in a West Linn middle school band program for five years and McNary High School in Salem for one year.

“I was at McNary when I got the call that the SHS position was open,” Stai said. “It was a big decision. I knew a lot of the kids, and it was totally the right decision to come here. We have three concert bands, two jazz bands, and the marching band, and there are a couple of others I help facilitate – the winter percussion and winter guard, which have coaches.”

While Stai knew the Sherwood position was a “big undertaking,” he has since realized that a lot more is involved than leading a strong music program. “I plan events, do the accounting and work on fundraising,” he said. “Thankfully, I have a very supportive team of parent boosters behind me. Right now we are working toward fundraising an additional $30,000 for new marching band uniforms.”

Stai explained that various bands are necessary to accommodate the different levels of students’ abilities as they are introduced to playing in a jazz band, for example, and move up as they gain experience and skills.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP/DAVID BALL - Sherwood High School students proudly carry a banner identifying the SHS marching band which performed in the Grand Floral Parade during this year's Rose Festival.“We have a jazz band class and a few concert band classes,” Stai said. “The wind ensemble is our top concert group and has done very well. They perform some top-level music literature.”

While many school district have cut art and music programs, Stai is pleased that SSD supports and even grows them.

“Lots of kids are dialed into our programs,” he said. “We have 120 students in the band program, and several of those musicians play in other SHS band ensembles. We enjoy performing at football and basketball games in addition to competitions and festivals.

“I was shocked when I added up 66 performances for the entire school year. I couldn’t believe it. I led most of them, but I also have a great percussion instructor, color guard instructor and someone who directs the pit orchestra for the musicals. Our program would not have the reach it has or be able to take on such a huge quantity of performances without the help of other music professionals.”

Being an ace planner is another crucial skill, with Stai noting that in August and September, he plans out the entire year’s schedule and which events the students will participate in. “I feel bad when someone calls after that and want students to perform, and I can’t fit it in,” he said.

One trend that pleases Stai is seeing so many pre-high school students playing instruments and performing at the middle school level so they arrive at SHS ready to go.

“The numbers of participating middle school students are going up,” he said. “Sixth grade is when students have the opportunity to start band in the middle school. Learning music is like learning a new language. It is crucial for students to get a good start in sixth grade, because otherwise it makes it tough to join our band programs.

“Last year we had a big senior class, and this year it was smaller, but next year we will have a bigger band with more juniors and seniors.”

Despite dealing with all the logistics, Stai clearly loves the job. “I love it because it’s creative,” he said. “We’re always creating new pieces of musical art and always doing creative things. What’s wonderful about music is that when the kids are engaged in class, the more mature they get and the better decisions they make about their music. If music is static, it is lifeless. Most of the time, it should be in motion, and we can stretch and bend the rules to create hesitation and surprise.

“I think band kids are some of the best kids in school. They are from all walks of life and demonstrate a willingness to work together. They come together to put music and the ensemble first. Often, we learn so much about listening, communication and other life skills that are related to music.”

With SHS on the trimester system, Stai said he needs the first third of the year “to figure out how students think and what approach will work best for them.”

And the music doesn’t stop when the school year ends as there are music and band camps plus marching in the Robin Hood parade.

COURTESY OF BRANT STAI - Sherwood High School's drum line, performing with the marching band in the Grand Floral Parade in June, enjoyed a very successful season this past year.And for the frosting on the cake, Stai was awarded the Mary V. Dodge 2015 Outstanding Music Teacher Award from the Portland Youth Philharmonic. “It was a nice surprise,” Stai said.

Following is a list of awards that the various SHS music groups have won during the last school year: Oregon Schools Activities Association 6A Band Contest – the wind ensemble won fourth place; Three Rivers League Band Festival – the wind ensemble won first place; Three Rivers League Jazz Festival – the jazz band won third place; Northwest Association for the Performing Arts Marching Band Championships – AA Category – first place; Grand Floral Parade Marching Band – 99 and under category in-state – first place;

Oregon Music Educators Association State Ensemble Contest – 11 participants: Sherwood percussion duet – second place in state; Sherwood woodwind quintet – fourth in state; Sherwood horn quartet – sixth place in state;

OSAA State Solo Contest (eight participants) - William K. – trombone – first place in state; Brian S. – horn – first place in state (tie); Joey C. – marimba – third place in state; and Madeleine S. – oboe – fifth place in state.

Also, at the OMEA Solo & Ensemble Festival, there were 52 performances, and 65 SHS band students were involved.


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