3/30/16 Eastern Alamance Band shines at MPA event in Asheboro

Eastern Alamance Band shines at MPA event in Asheboro
By Adam Powell, Enterprise Staff Writer, The Mebane Enterprise 3/30/16     
Reprinted with permission.

The Eastern Alamance band plays during a home playoff game in November 2015. More recently, the band played at a competition in Asheboro and received high marks.

Photograph by Charlie Pogacar, Mebane Enterprise

The Eastern Alamance band plays during a home playoff game in November 2015. More recently, the band played at a competition in Asheboro and received high marks.

Eastern Alamance’s Band, under the direction of first-year instructor Ben Crotts, had a memorable showing March 17 at the North Carolina Music Educators Association Band Music Performance Adjudication, also known as MPA.

At the event, which took place at Asheboro High School, Eastern’s 76-member band received an “Excellent” rating, the second-highest possible score, for their stage performances, as well as a “Superior” rating, highest possible, in a site reading competition.

“The judges rate you on a scale of 1 to 5 — 1 being a superior, 2 being excellent, 3 being average, 4 is below average,” Crotts said. “5? I don’t know exactly what it is. 5 is like, why did you get off the bus? We got straight 2’s from every stage judge. And then we actually took a superior (1) in the site rhythm.”

Eastern’s band has been working for several months in preparation for this regional event, which tested their abilities against 17 other bands from Greensboro to Raleigh.

“It’s done in the class,” Crotts said of Eastern’s preparation. “We rehearsed within those classes, and then we combined two or three times after school, with the whole group playing, to get ready for it.”

The Eagles performed a march, two stage pieces in front of a panel of judges, and participated in a unique site reading event, which challenges the musicians’ interpretive skills.

“The way it works is you prepare three pieces. One of them is a march. It used to be that was a warm-up piece and wasn’t judged, but now three pieces are judged,” Crotts said. “Then you pick two other pieces of music that are graded, on a scale of dificulty, 1 through 6. 1 being the easiest level, something like a middle school band might take, 6 being some of the harder music you can put in front of a high school band. Our two pieces after the march were in grade 4.”

“We started rehearsing them before Christmas,” Crotts continued. “I put about five or six pieces in front of them and wasn’t totally sure exactly which ones we would pick. When we came back from the break, and the new semester rolled over, we narrowed it down to the three pieces we were going to take, and rehearsed them until the performance.”

Crotts, who is in his seventh year of teaching, explained the intricacies of the various events in which the Eastern High band competed in Asheville.

“There are three judges (for the stage event), and they have copies of your music. So they sit in the back looking at exactly what you’re playing,” he said. “With marching band, they don’t have copies of your music or your drill. They just evaluate what they hear. In this, they can actually see what you were supposed to play, so if there’s a dynamic or an articulation written in that you don’t do, or if somebody misses
a note — it places a lot more accountability on me and the students to make sure everything is done correctly.”

“You’re given a piece of music to site read that you haven’t seen before,” Crotts added, detailing the event in which Eastern received its “Superior” score. “You have five minutes to look over it, talk your way through it. The kids can practice putting their fingers down, making sure they know all the notes. At the end of the five minutes, you play through the piece, and then you’re scored based on how well you play it.

That is 25 percent of your score, and the three judges that do the onstage part is 75 percent of your score.”

One of the exciting things from Crotts’ perspective is that the Eastern band is relatively young, with few seniors graduating out, along with the likelihood that they could continue growing with the influx of students arriving to Eastern High in the coming years from Mebane’s middle schools.

“Our senior class is actually one of our smaller classes. The majority of the students, our sophomore class is the biggest. The sophomore and junior classes are a little bit bigger than the current senior class,” the band leader replied. “We’re graduating some, but we’re definitely looking to get bigger with the bigger classes coming, and the increasing enrollments coming out of Woodlawn and Hawfields Middle.”

Coming off their impressive showing at the MPA competition, Eastern’s band is now focusing in on its last concert of the school year on Tuesday, May 24.

“The kids worked really, really hard to prepare for this. It was a new thing for them. They could have not done what I asked them to do. The kids showed a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of initiative for it. The whole process made me a better band director, and it definitely made the kids better musicians. They put all their time and energy into it. They did everything I asked them to do. And I am really proud of them. The kids in the band are great people, and it’s just a privilege to work with them every day.