MONTROSE — If you were one of hundreds who attended Montrose High School basketball games recently, you couldn't help but notice the crisp, thundering music of the high school band.
Athletes who used to warm up to hip-hop music booming from the Lloyd McMillan Memorial Gym's loudspeakers were instead building game-time anticipation to the tune of Louie, Louie, All Star and other familiar rallying songs under the direction of band director Josiah St. Peter.
As the band performed, those in the bleachers conversed while tapping their feet. Others sat bobbing their heads to the low notes and those who were brave enough joined in with some “air drumming" on imaginary drums.
The Lady Indians won 43-38 over rival Grand Junction this night as the band played during time outs, energizing the team's cheerleaders and fans. The boys team fell by 16.
The Montrose High School band has noticeably improved over the past few years. St. Peter credits this success to the groundwork laid at Montrose's two middle schools, Centennial and Columbine, where band programs continue to teach and mold young musicians.
"I told them they could achieve whatever goal they wanted. They really dug in and believed. I think the attitude has made them better," St. Peter said.
St. Peter, 28, grew up in Delta and graduated from high school there in 2002. Fresh out of college, he became Delta High School’s former band director, and won three consecutive state 2A marching band titles before transferring to Montrose in 2010.
"I enjoy it. I enjoy the larger school atmosphere compared to my previous job. I enjoy the dedication the kids have to band activity and parents who are also dedicated," St. Peter said.
St. Peter's praise of middle school preparation can be linked to Columbine Middle School band director John White and Centennial's Shawn Lund.
"They get those kids to understand how to play their instruments and get them excited to play music," St. Peter said.
White was director of the Delta High School for seven years and mentored St. Peter throughout his time there. He has been with Columbine since 2006.
He remembers St. Peter as a star athlete on both the football and wrestling teams, but it was St. Peter's accomplishment in jazz band, he notes, that inspired him to pursue higher music education.
St. Peter earned a spot with the all-state jazz ensemble during his final years in high school and had the chance to perform at the the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs.
"When he came back from there, he devoted more time to music," White said.
From there St. Peter studied and received a bachelor of arts degree from Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction in music and returned to Delta to lead the school's band.
White said given St. Peter’s experience at a high school level, he knows what type of training young musicians need.
"We take our jobs really seriously,” White said. “Your middle school band programs are critical. We're given the raw materials and try to turn that into a solid base of learning."
At Montrose High School, St. Peter has moved up a division to 4A competition where he admits the challenge is greater. White agrees.
White, who also won a pair of 2A state marching titles in Delta in 2002 and 2003, said the playing field is more level in 2A than 4A schools.
"Montrose is still kind of a rural school, and they’re competing with schools on the Front Range with huge budgets. Montrose is in a whole new ball game." he said.
This past fall, the MHS marching band finished 15th overall in state competition.
"I was real pleased with that," St. Peter said.
White and St. Peter continue to use each other as resources in their band programs and brainstorm new ideas to improve their marching bands.
"What I learned most from him (White) was to make music fun and not to take things too seriously," St. Peter said.
The MHS band is preparing for a Colorado Band Association regional qualifier at Palisade High School on March 4. If successful the band will hopefully compete in CBA’s state competition in mid-April.