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Band Flies High with Top Scores at OMEA Contest


Columbus Academy’s Concert Band participated in the Ohio Music Education Association’s (OMEA) Large Group Contest Districts on March 9, at Big Walnut and received the highest score in a new, difficult division.

Since 2010, our band has participated in the Class C division, which, technically, has less difficult music. This year, however, the 67-member group competed in Class B, which requires an increased focus on intangible qualities, such as intonation and tone quality-plus more complex sight-reading, as Ms. Sneeringer and Ms. O’Rourke realized the group was ready for a challenge. 

A previous concert held on Sunday, February 25, let the band practice its diverse competition repertoire of JaRod Hall’s “Zipline,” Yukiko Nishimura’s “Ancient Flower,” and John Mackey’s “Foundry” that it received in December. Hall’s tune invokes a nostalgia of zipping around outside, while Nishimura’s ballad and its transparent melodies place listeners into a garden, watching flowers grow. “Foundry” emphasizes the 12-member percussion section, two of whom are also trumpet-players, to underscore the piece’s metal-working character. Some instruments in Mackey’s score are found objects, including a pile of metal, and hitting various metal bowls. While there were brief solos, Ms. Sneeringer chose not to rely on specific people to stand out.

Ms. Sneeringer also hosted an extra hour-long rehearsal after school on Thursday, March 7, the only one of its kind. Other Central Ohioan Class B bands often meet once or twice a week in addition to regular classes. Yet Academy is the only private school that participates in competition, and one of few schools with just one band that partakes in Class B.

For the March 9 OMEA contest, the band—decked in white tops and black trousers—performed  in front of 3 judges and over 60 audience members, many of whom were parents. Scores can vary from judge to judge, so to receive better marks, Ms. Sneeringer strives to “eliminate as much subjectivity as possible.”  

The students then followed a separate evaluator to the sight-reading room, where they attempted to play Class C-level music they had never seen. 

After receiving music, the musicians had four minutes to discuss with each other plus mime playing and mark up the music. When the four minutes concluded, Ms. Sneeringer taught for four minutes, where the band could clap, count, and sing. However, nobody could make a sound until the complete eight minutes were up and official sight-reading commenced without stopping. To practice for this, students sight-read live at the concert, which parents had raving reviews about, supplementing Ms. Sneeringer’s previously discussed strategies in effectively going over new music.

All waiting with anticipation, band members stayed behind until hearing they received a 1, or Superior, the highest rating out of 5, the eighth year in a row with this standing, which thrilled them. With that, they became state qualifiers, but can not attend the April 20 competition due to timing issues. Sight-reading earned a 2 due to struggles in balancing the melody. Ms. Sneeringer compared this achievement to an athlete “receiving a new personal best.”

Lucy I., a saxophonist, said, “We were all so surprised upon hearing we got a 1! I think it’s because we try to focus on making sure we play the music well, with the score just happening to be an added bonus. Thank you Ms. O’Rourke and Ms. Sneeringer for all their help!”

Congratulations to the Upper School Concert Band on a magnificent showing at the Large Group Contest! Its spring recital will take place on Tuesday, April 30 at 7:30 p.m. in the Jones Gym.


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