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Pinto Pride Band ends ‘exemplary’ drought

Band receives highest rank for first time in more than 25 years by Garrett Fuller | March 29, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
Submitted — The Pinto Pride Band received its first "exemplary" rating in more than 25 years March 11 at the district band competition held at School of the Osage.

The Pinto Pride Band has a lot to be proud of, especially after bringing home its first "exemplary" rating in more than two decades.

Hard work and dedication paid off for California High School's marching and concert bands March 11 at a district band competition at School of the Osage High School. For the first time in more than 25 years, the band earned the highest possible rating -- an exemplary -- after performing two prepared musical pieces and sightreading, or performing a short piece they had no knowledge of beforehand.

Jacob Small, band director at California's middle and high schools, said he's seen a "tremendous level of growth" from his students in the two years he's worked for the district, which he graduated from in 2016. He said the students have surpassed every expectation he has set for them.

As with anything else, practice was key to growth. Small said the band has started practicing before school and has placed an emphasis on the quality of practices.

"Really, we had to define, as a program, how we wanted our practices to go," he said. "And so we kinda set some procedures for how we're going to approach every single practice, every single rehearsal, and we had to hold ourselves to those standards."

The band had 10 weeks to prepare for the district competition, Small said. Eight weeks were spent on practicing the two prepared pieces chosen by Small -- "Darklands March" and "Cut to the Chase" -- while the other two weeks were spent preparing for sightreading.

Small said the pieces he chose for the competition highlight the strengths of the band while also challenging them. He said the two pieces were "energetic" with lots of percussion.

"I make sure that the pieces that I do select are quality pieces, they highlight our players so we're putting our spotlight on the sections that need to have a spotlight on," Small said. "Then I also want to make sure that it challenges them, because nothing is worse than sitting for 10 weeks on pieces that you play in a week. ... I want to make sure it's hard enough that they're challenged, but not so hard that they are not able to do it."

At the competition, schools do not compete against other schools. Instead, three judges evaluate each band on a variety of criteria, from articulation (how each note is attacked) to breathing to musical effect. From there, the scores between the two prepared pieces and sightreading performance are averaged. Small said 15-18 schools, including Jefferson City High School and Southern Boone High School, participated in the Osage district competition.

After nearly an hour of a "nail-biting" wait while judges tabulated the scores, Small said he was in disbelief that California scored a one -- or exemplary -- overall at the competition. In most previous years, the band scored a two, or outstanding, at the competition.

"Whenever we were done playing, I didn't want to say 'Hey, I think we have this in the bag,' but it was a very great experience, one to see the kids react because they were a little bit more in disbelief than I was, and two, it was great as a director to have all the hard work that you've put in and your kids have put in pay off."

While he doesn't know the exact date, Small said it has been at least 25 years since the band received an exemplary rating, referring back to school records and parents who were band alumni. To go from a two to a one, he said, is no small task.

"Most bands are a two, but to get to a one is going the extra mile, you're putting in the extra effort, the kids are just that much better than the other bands," Small said.

Small is quick to credit his students with the accomplishment, as ultimately they were the ones who put in the work and grew.

"I would like to take credit, but really I'm just a guy up there waving my arms and telling kids what to do," he said. "I'm not the one playing, it's really the students that deserve the credit. They put in the work, they have the attention for detail and all that good stuff, and they really had the discipline to pull off everything that we needed to get done. So I really have to give credit to the students for being the ones that have put in 95 percent of the work."

In addition to the students, Small said he's grateful for support from parents and the school district.

"Over the last two years we've received a tremendous amount of respect and support, and the students are very, very, very gracious and they're very much appreciative of everything the school and community has done," he said. "Hopefully we continue to grow and continue to have success, and we'll get even better in the future."

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