By William P. Thompson
The Portales High School band has already won a superior rating in marching band competition this year, and now the band hopes to get superior ratings at the concert band and sight reading district competition next week in Clovis.
Jeremy Smith, an alto saxophone player in the band, said he is confident the band can get the superior ratings and bring home what’s called the “sweepstakes trophy.”
“It (winning the sweepstakes trophy) will be awesome,” Smith said. “We’re the best we’ve been since I’ve been here.”
Smith attributes the band’s improving musicianship to the director, Brandon Boerio, who took the helm a little more than a year ago.
“There is a lot more discipline. We work more on fundamentals like good tone,” Smith said.
Heather Stroud plays vibes in the band. She said Boerio has instilled more pride in the band. She said more students are practicing at home these days.
“You can tell that people have practiced at home,” she said.
Likewise, Boerio said students know when someone hasn’t done their band homework.
“When students come to practice unprepared, they stick out,” Boerio said, “and it’s embarrassing for them. We have a motto this year. ‘Pride. Dedication Excellence.’ If they take pride in what they do, then eventually they’ll achieve excellence.”
Boerio said he’s confident the band can win superior ratings next week in Clovis. He said the judges will be comparing the band’s performance to what they (the judges) would consider to be a superior performance.
For the sight reading competition, the band will have 10 minutes to look over a piece of music they’ve never played before. Boerio pulled out a new, long and difficult piece of music at a rehearsal Friday and quickly began going over difficult passages with the different band sections. After about 10 minutes the band played the piece from beginning to end.
Although many band members got lost during the piece, the band was able to forge ahead and get through it, and there were parts that came together well.
Boerio said the actual sight reading piece at competition will be shorter and less difficult.
“I learned from some good conductors at Eastern (Eastern New Mexico University),” he said. “You never know who the judges are going to be (at the competition.) We have a routine. We warm up. When we get on stage we try to be comfortable. We relax. We laugh and joke. We know when to be humorous and we know when to be serious.”
Boerio said he hopes to stay at PHS for a long time to come. He said he’s looking for the band to go up to about 100 members next year.
“We have the largest class of eighth-graders coming in that we’ve ever had,” Boerio said. “I still go over and watch the junior high band and I teach the junior high percussionists.”
Mackenzie Kennedy plays French horn in the band and is happy to have a solo to perform in one of the concert band competition pieces called “River of Life.” She said Boerio’s teaching methods are just what the band needed.
“He (Boerio) knows what parts of the music we need to work on and he helps us by telling us how to make them better,” she said, “and then he connects all the pieces together. There is a lot more pride in the band now. We want to get ones (superior ratings) this year. The band didn’t care as much two years ago.”
Boerio used gentle persuasion and a spirited admonishment at Friday’s rehearsal as he fine tuned the band for competition. He called out the percussionists for getting lost and not looking to him for cues during a rehearsal of “River of Life.” He was quick to reassure them, however.
“I love you guys, but if you don’t look up at me, I can’t help you,” he said.