Miami East concert band; state qualifiers for 10th year


By Amantha Garpiel

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CASSTOWN — The Miami East High School concert band, directed by Jeff Smith, has qualified for the Ohio Music Education Association (OMEA) State competition for the 10th consecutive year, excluding the two years during the COVID-19 pandemic when there were no competitions.

Smith has been the band director at Miami East High School for 23 years and has led the concert band to the state competition each year since the spring of 2012. This year’s state qualifying concert band has 28 members and some of the students chose to form small ensembles to compete separately. Miami East had two ensembles and five soloists who competed at this year’s district OMEA competition.

The band qualified for state at the regional competition on March 3, at Bellefontaine High School and will be competing at the state competition on April 28, in the Creative Arts Center at Wright State University. Each competing group must perform a march, a required piece and a chosen piece. The march, performed by the Miami East concert band, was “Front and Center,” composed by Jean Milford; the required piece was “Sunchaser,” by Carol Chambers; and the band’s chosen piece was “Joyance,” by James Swearingen.

“It’s the students. Their drive, their desire. They buy into creating meaningful music and performing it at a high level. It’s become a source of pride,” said Smith, when asked what he believes was the main reason for the band qualifying for 1o years in a row.

According to Smith, when he first started band was a niche at Miami East and it took a lot of hard work and dedication on his part and the student’s part to build a reputation and respect for the program.

“The students were the easy part (to building the band). The perception of the school, of the community, of parents who, for so long, they felt like maybe band wasn’t all that worth while. Why should they really support their child to be in it? It took a long time to do that, but as we started to incorporate more into the school and we started to be much more active in terms of everything we did, not everybody is going to understand what we do, but I feel like there is a healthy appreciation for what we do,” said Smith.

Smith attributes the success of the concert band to the students and their drive for excellence and determination to provide quality music. He noted that there have often been times where the band is short on members in a certain instrument section and that students, each time, have volunteered to learn a new instrument to maintain the quality of music produced by the band.

Over the years, including this year, the high school band has faced numerous challenges. Some of the challenges Smith mentioned include limited practice times and difficulty getting younger kids, in fifth and sixth grade, interested in participating and being dedicated to band. The high school concert band has limited times to practice. Band is an optional class at Miami East and is scheduled for the school’s seventh period, giving the band approximately 4o minutes of practice time each day.

Having concert band as a class also does not help the difficulty getting dedicated members to join the band. Not all students have a free class period to dedicate to the hard work involved in concert band.

The other issue with participation is encountered in the middle school. Students have the option to begin participating in band in fifth and sixth grades. However, until recently middle school band kids had to sacrifice their recess time to take part in band. Smith hopes that the schedule change at the middle school, where students no longer have to choose between band and recess, will help encourage students to join band and he is hopeful that, in a few years, this change will increase the number of students participating in high school band.

Seniors Tyler Motter, tuba player, and Evan Malott, trumpet, shared how important it is for the band to qualify for state this year and shared their relief at not being part of the senior class to ruin the 10 year streak, particularly after the pandemic took away two years of competition from the band.

Miami East High School senior Max Pohl shared why they have stayed dedicated to the band, even through the pandemic. Pohl has been in band since fifth grade and they play obo in the concert band and alto saxophone in the jazz band.

“My family comes from a background of band players. My mother was in band, as well as my brother and my father, and most of my aunts and uncles as well as my grandfather on my dad’s side. It just made sense for me to do band when the time came,” said Pohl. “I stayed in band because the band room was the only room I wasn’t bullied in when I was in Junior High. As it turns out, most kids figure out that you’re ‘different’ before you know you are. The band room was the only place I wasn’t bullied on a day-to-day basis and I felt the safest in that room.”

“Mr. Smith was the only one who truly tried to challenge me when it came to school. He gave me increasingly difficult challenges to complere and he was the teacher who you knew always cared for you,” continued Pohl.

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