Recently Muckerman brought her 30-student middle school concert band to Grand Junction High School for the Colorado West Invitational Performance Festival where they received accolades for their performance of composer David Schaefer’s “Fire Dance.”
“We’ve had a consistent rating of ‘excellent’ the last two years,” says Muckerman of her students’ performance at the annual festival. “This year we received our first ‘superior’ rating. We were really pleased, really excited.”
Out of 20 bands, the group – made up of brass, woodwinds and percussion – became one of two that received a ‘superior’ or 5 rating – the highest among a numbered system, according to Muckerman. After their performance, the judges told the band they were the smallest group they had seen all day, but they “played with the most energy,” she says. Redlands Middle School, a much larger band, received the other “superior” of the day, while everyone else received “twos, threes and fours.”
“We’re definitely on the right track,” says Muckerman, “especially compared with such large schools,” and the fact that this year’s judges were considered to be particularly tough. Besides rating the students’ performance on stage, the three judges also worked with the students, giving them constructive criticism.
Muckerman’s band’s strong performance was likely influenced by the fact that they established a direct connection with the song’s composer.
“To make music come alive, I have students ask questions about what they’re playing,” says Muckerman. Realizing that she couldn’t answer all the students’ questions about “Fire Dance,” Muckerman took a chance at contacting Schaefer directly at Miami’s University of Ohio, where he teaches. After some back and forth, she was finally able to email the students’ questions directly to Schaefer, who responded enthusiastically.
It was a great exercise for Muckerman, who notes, “We don’t always remember to do [such things] in the busyness of things.”
Last weekend Muckerman brought her concert band to Denver’s Elitch Gardens for a Spring Music Festival there. “My students did great – they received another ‘superior’ rating,” says Muckerman of that performance.
Back home, all 140 of Muckerman’s first through twelfth-grade students will wrap up their school year with an annual spring concert at the Norwood High School gym, Tuesday, May 5 at 7 p.m. This year’s theme is Country Western Music.