Looking starry-eyed but focused, this piccolo player watches John Buskirk’s movements for direction while on the field executing a mass movement with other band members during halftime at a recent football game.
Photo by Andy Towle.
Times are good for Payson High School’s band, fresh from winning its first awards in years and awaiting new uniforms after four years of fund-raising efforts.
The uniforms should arrive any day now, and the more modern look might give the kids the psychological edge they need to score high enough during one of two upcoming competitions to enter March’s state band festival.
In late September, Payson’s High School’s band beat five other schools in its division at the Mountain Pointe High School Invitational to win awards for best general effect, best percussion and outstanding musical performance.
Band teacher Daria Mason said as a music teacher, she was especially pleased the judges recognized the kids for best musical performance because the award recognizes the kids’ overall musical prowess.
Despite the accolades, the band unfortunately didn’t score high enough to secure a spot at March’s state competition, but Mason said judges tend to score conservatively during the season’s first competition.
This year marks Mason’s second teaching high school band. Last year Mason said she encountered a huge learning curve since she hadn’t taught high school band in 15 years.
Teaching high school band requires substantially more time, Mason said, but the kids have more developed technical abilities and can play more complex music.
“They have the maturity and the skills to create something that is of beauty to the listener,” said Mason of high school students.
At the elementary level, the band director guides students toward reaching their potential.
“Every student has potential, but it takes them three or four or five years of the learning process” to reach it, said Mason.
“Here, we already have those three or four or five years and we get to make music.”
And over the past four years, the Payson High School band members have worked to raise $9,000 for new uniforms. They mainly used money from the concession stand at football games. Then, the Mogollon Sporting Association matched the $9,000 for a total of $18,000.
“It’s a chunk of change,” said Mason. “Our old uniforms were 15 years old.” The old suits were threadbare and stained.
The new, purple and black ones are lighter and “a little less military looking,” said Mason.
“They’re supposed to be arriving any day now.”
Meanwhile, the program continues to grow. Forty-nine students now play, up from fewer than 45 last year. Mason said she anticipates further growth as the band wins accolades and glory.
The band’s budget is completely driven by students and Credit for Kids, the tax program that allows people to donate to the school and deduct the donation dollar for dollar from their state tax bills.
Parents help, too, by running the concession stand.
“It’s a collaboration,” said Mason. Between students, parents, the district administration and the community.
“Working together has really allowed these kids to experience the success,” said Mason.