Highland Band performs in Florida
Perhaps the Highland High School Band should consider building onto their new band room to accommodate the numerous awards they have received and continue to mount. This band is definitely finishing off the year with a bang.
The band recently returned from Orlando, Fla., where the 46 student band competed in the internationally renowned All American Music Festival. The band, under the direction of Greg and Hope Bruner, brought home awards and received the coveted "Excellence Rating" as well as being ranked seventh in the nation for their class.
For many of the seniors this memorable event was the best possible way to cap off their high school band careers. Many of the students have been in band together since beginner band in the sixth grade and have grown musically as a team.
When asked to recall some of their favorite memories of being a member of the band, senior french horn section leader and drum major Jessica Perez said it had to be the "sense of belonging and accomplishment." She compared the other members to being "like a big happy family." Perez's accomplishments for the year include Outstanding Drum Major and All-Region Band.
Many of the seniors also recall those long summer practices. The marching rehearsals are conducted in the summer when the weather is extremely hot. These dedicated band members begin practice at 8 a.m. and march through lunch time and then return in the afternoon for playing rehearsals.
Forest Carithers, senior saxophone section leader especially enjoyed recalling the feeling at the end of a show. He said "When you know you have pleased a crowd, you can just feel it and know that they are awestruck." Make no mistakes, this band is overflowing with extremely talented musicians.
Behind every successful person is someone who inspired them to be their best. This person for an overwhelming majority of senior band members is Mr. Bruner. All were in agreement that one of the single most important factors in their personal success was the drive and motivation instilled by both Mr. and Mrs. Bruner.
Perez said at times you would "want to hate" Bruner, for his determination and how hard he makes the members work. She said that she knew his intentions were only to better their performances. She compared her experiences with the band as that of a "big happy family."
Senior Paige Wright will be furthering her career with a degree in music. She plans to attend college at Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tenn., after graduation. While a member of the Highland High School Band, Paige won many honors including Outstanding Soloist, All-Region Band (1st Band) and All-State wind symphony. She has especially enjoyed meeting new people and making friends.
When asked about the driving force behind the overwhelming success of this band, the consensus from seniors Brent Gifford, Alex Myren and Lauren Kemper was the drive the Bruners instill in the members.
Flagline Captain Olivia Hartness' favorite memories include the flag camp that is held at Williams Baptist University in Walnut Ridge. She says, "It is a sisterhood, learning new routines and having fun."
Flute player Lauren Kemper also recalled new friendships and the family like relationships shared with other band members.
The trip to participate in the Music Festival in Florida was a great opportunity for the band. The planning and financing for the trip to the All American Music Festival was a collaborative effort through not only the Bruners and the band members, but also the community.
The Bruner's orchestrated the financing process by negotiating pricing on hotels and accommodations. They also got prices on the chartered coach bus that was used for the drive to Orlando. After Bruner came up with a figure of just under $600 per member for accommodations, the fundraising began.
The group sold cookie dough, had a bake sale, sold Christmas items and had a huge yard sale at the High School Cafeteria. This, coupled with a paid performance at the grand re-opening of McDonalds's in Hardy and a donation from an area bank, sealed their fate for the memorable trip to the sunny state.
While in Orlando, students competed against approximately 40 other bands from all across the nation. They finished seventh overall and won their class. This is a huge honor, one which is definitely proof that hard work and determination pays off.
While in Florida, the students were also able to tour Universal Studios, MGM Studios, Downtown Disney, Planet Hollywood, Medieval Times and Cocoa Beach.
This trip will be the highlight of many of the members high school years. In addition to this huge honor, the band has also 'brought home the gold' in other competitions throughout the year.
In marching contests, they competed in the Forrest City Invitational in which they received Superior and Outstanding ratings in band, colorguard, percussion and drum major, as well as an outstanding soloist award. They finished 4th overall behind the much larger schools Jonesboro, Germantown, Tenn., and Marion, Ark.
In the District VIII Marching Festival, the band received all Superior Division I ratings. If this isn't enough to serve any band member proud, at their Regional Concert Contest they won the Sweepstakes award.
This is a coveted award, that only 2-3 percent of bands ever achieve and has been taken home two years in a row by the band. The Sweepstakes award means that the band won the highest possible rating in marching, concert and sight reading. This accomplishment is nearly unheard of in a band of this size.
Drum major Perez laughed as she said, "Mr. Bruner don't just let us sit on an award." After returning home from the trip to Florida, Mr. Bruner was already looking ahead to the next competitions and preparing his students for them..
The band hosted the solo and ensemble competition on April 24-25 at the school with a host of other schools making the trip to Highland to perform. They are currently preparing for their upcoming spring concert to be held May 3.
The seniors all laughed when quoting one of Mr. Bruner's favorite quotes. He asks his students to, "Reach your hands as high as they can," when they do this, he then says "higher" once they do this a second time, he again says "higher." After the final reach, Bruner's reply is always, " Why didn't you do that the first time?" Every student could recite this quote in unison.
This speaks volumes about his expectations of the students. He knows their capabilities and helps them strive to excel and be the best they can musically
Long after the senior members in this band have finished their last show and marched onto college and into their careers, there is no doubt the leadership and determination implanted in these students will help them excel at all their future endeavors.