Band Gets New Life At Julia Randall

Amber Robinson and music teacher Mike Buskirk take a breather during band practice recently.

Amber Robinson and music teacher Mike Buskirk take a breather during band practice recently. |

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Suzanne Jacobson/Roundup

Amber Robinson and music teacher Mike Buskirk take a breather during band practice recently.

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Suzanne Jacobson/Roundup

Taylor Vaughn, Kara Van Zile, Jayla Larson and Mercedes Crary practice for a winter concert at Julia Randall Middle School recently.

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Tom Brossart/Roundup

Jacob Avakian plays a saxophone at Julia Randall during band practice.

After a three-year hiatus, band has re-started this year at Julia Randall and Payson Elementary Schools.

The success followed two years lobbying the district and schedule finagling, said Frontier Elementary music teacher Daria Mason, whose school has managed to maintain band during the other schools’ lapses.

Mason teaches strings and African drumming, as well as band, during the day.

After school at Julia Randall, students recently practiced for their winter music concert.

Music teachers debate the effectiveness of after-school programs, noting that transportation and time difficulties may preclude children from joining. After-school programs also make it easier for students to quit.

However, music teachers within the Payson Unified School District are hopeful that elementary band will continue to grow and thrive, with this year’s program reinstatement the beginning of a beautiful era.

For students like Julia Randall fifthgrader Rachel Spooner, who has begun playing the trumpet in the footsteps of her grandfather, elementary music education has only incited her enthusiasm.

“I’ve been wanting to play since I was four,” she said.

It is for students like Spooner that advocates fought for the program, which is offered to fifth-graders.

“I’m a strong believer that every child should have the ability to experience an instrument for at least one year,” said Mason.

Mason says she would not have been a musician were it not for band during school — her parents would have been unable to transport her from an after-school program.

“Band is a place where everybody is on the team,” said Mike Buskirk, who teaches middle school band and the programs at JRE and PES.

“But only if you can get there,” said Mason. Julia Randall does have a general music class, which teaches children about different types of instruments and notes, but the school could likely not offer band this year without Buskirk.

“We didn’t give up, even when it wasn’t there,” said Mason.

Mason and Buskirk, who are married, believe in elementary school band because it feeds to middle and high school band.

Since the district’s music director died in 2000, several music teachers have attempted to rebuild programs. However, scheduling and finding certified teachers has proven difficult.

Buskirk and high school music teacher Larry Potvin have filled the positions before, but added strain on their schedules eventually forced the men to abandon the effort, according to previous reports.

At FES, Mason said then-principal Gail Gorry worked to keep the program, finding teachers and rearranging schedules to keep it during the school day.

High school band numbers have dropped, for numerous reasons, but music teachers in the district hope that the program’s renewal at the elementary level will lead to a district-wide renaissance.

“If they’re not given the opportunity in elementary school, then in middle school, they think it’s not cool,” said Buskirk.

Roughly three-quarters of the middle school’s beginning band came from Frontier Elementary, Buskirk said.

Students like Bailey Best, who plays the clarinet, could be one of those students next year. “I’m going to try to keep playing until high school,” she said.

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