Niles High School band to perform at state festival
The Niles High School symphonic band will perform at the Michigan State Band and Orchestra Festival Friday in Paw Paw for the first time in at least 20 years.
Director Josh Doe said it will serve as a measuring stick for a program that has seen dramatic growth over the past two years, increasing its membership from 62 to 113.
“They know we are good enough to get here, but this will show them how close we are to the superior level,” Doe said. “And it will prepare them for next year by teaching them how to refine their playing even more.”
The band qualified for state by earning the highest possible rating (Level 1) at a district level performance in March.
The band qualified for state last year as well, but chose not to attend because Doe said only half of the band members wanted to go.
“If you go to state everyone has to be in,” he said. “They have to spend more time with the music, they have to get more in-depth with the music. They have to make the good things great and the great things amazing.”
Doe said some of the students did not want to go to state last year because they knew their work would be held to a much higher standard by the state judges. The students were also ready to move on to new music, he said, after playing the same pieces over and over again.
That wasn’t the case this year.
Senior Gigi Goshorn, who plays saxophone in the band, said everyone has bought in this time.
“For a lot of people — some did want to go last year, but this year I think everyone felt more prepared,” she said. “We also have a much bigger group with a lot of young ones that are probably really excited for the opportunity.
“We probably can’t go in there and get a straight 1 (top rating), but the experience will definitely help the band for the future too.”
Freshman Alex McOmber, who plays the saxophone, also thinks playing at state will help the band build upon its success.
“I am looking forward to the judging and all the comments, even if they are negative,” he said. “It is just a big honor to be able to go.”
Senior Monica Harpole said she has noticed a positive change in the band since joining in middle school.
“I was the only trombone player and we only had like 60 kids,” she said. “Now we are over 100 and it is just phenomenal what has happen since I was a freshman.”
Harpole and Goshorn are two of just 18 seniors in the band.
Doe said more than half are freshmen and sophomores who plan on sticking around. He also said 130 students have registered for seventh and eighth grade band next fall, meaning numbers should continue to climb in the coming years.
“The growth comes from having success and showing kids you can have fun and achieve at a high level,” he said. “That is how all the great band programs do it and that is part of our goal.”
Goshorn said she is proud to be part of the program’s growth and is excited to see where it will go.
“I think we have a lot of hard working people that really want to see the band succeed,” she said. “I think that is making a name for ourselves in the community and putting us in a positive light.”