Brandywine band earns division one rating

Published 8:16 am Thursday, March 17, 2016

Submitted photo

Submitted photo

Since Ruth Livengood began teaching at Brandywine High School, the band program has grown tremendously.

In four years, the high school band has more than quadrupled in size (from 11 members to 50 today), but numbers aren’t the only improvement. Last week at the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association Festival in Benton Harbor, the band received a division one rating — the highest possible score a band can receive at the festival.

Loosely translated as an “excellent: performance, Livengood said it has been many years since a Brandywine band has scored so well.

“This is the first time in memorable history that that’s happened, and it was a hard judging week, which makes it even better,” Livengood said.

The band director estimates that the last time the band received such a high rating was before longtime band director Bill Crouch retired in the early 2000s.

In order to receive the excellent rating, students performed three songs: “Courage March” by Harold Bennett, “Follow the River” by James Swearingen, and “Jungle Dance” by Brian Balmages and sight read music for festival judges.

“There are only a few bands that get a division one rating,” Livengood said. “It basically means that they are among the best in the region.”

So what’s the secret to the band’s success?

“I think that the students and I, we have really made a pact to make band a really positive environment,” Livengood said. “The students are buckling down and have been committed to working hard.”

Livengood also takes as much help and advice from her mentors as she can get.

Former Brandywine band directors Tom Wentworth and Jay Crouch, as well as Buchanan band director Dixie Detgen have visited Brandywine band rehearsals to listen and review their sound, offering feedback and advice.

“When they give us tips, we listen to them. We appreciate the advice,” Livengood said.

With the division one rating under their belts, the Brandywine band is fired up and ready to showcase their hard work at its upcoming spring concert and the Niles Memorial Day Parade.

“We are not only excited about the continued growth of the Bobcat high school band, but also proud of the tradition of excellence they continue to uphold,” Liveongood said.