November 1, 2005 > And the bands play on
And the bands play on
by Sabrina Mahajan
If you were impressed with the marvelous performance of the Newark Memorial High School band and the Newark Junior High School band at the Newark Days parade, you would be surprised to know that the band is only two years old. The music program at the Newark school district was almost halted several years ago when the district made cutbacks due to shortfalls in funding.
Two years ago, the city of Newark, where many high profile city officials are great music lovers and patrons of the arts, stepped in and formed a partnership with the Newark School District to fund the band program. One of the new music directors, Kevin Hanson is very appreciative of the fact that the city supported the program with a grant of $300,000. The funding was used toward replacing old, worn out equipment and all costs associated with rebuilding the music program at the elementary and junior high levels. The district now has three fulltime dedicated band directors: Andre Ehling, (elementary), David Jackson, (junior high), and Kevin Hanson, (high school and sometimes elementary schools).
"It is a proven statistic that kids who are involved in the music programs always test at a higher level on standardized testing. Music, benefits students in core subjects as well as expanding the minds and horizons of young people," said Hanson.
Bringing over 18 years of solid experience in instrumental as well as vocal music, Hanson worked and performed with U.S. Army bands all over the world. His last stint was in Japan where he played trumpet and was a conductor. He decided to leave the military to return to a career in education because of his great love of teaching. Prior to his tenure in the military, he taught for nine years in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania where he had successful and award-winning bands.
As a passionate band leader, Hanson praises the positive attitude of his students. He is dedicated in rejuvenating the band program and building community support. With this in mind he started the Newark Area Symphonic Winds, where musicians comprised of everyone from high school students to amateur and professional musicians from the Tri-City area come together to play music. They rehearse every Monday evening and perform at various events throughout the year.
Typically the band program at Newark starts in the elementary schools at the fourth grade level. These participants are then absorbed into the band program at in middle school. By the time these students enter high school they are highly trained on their instruments. Although it is hard to believe by their performances, many of the students in the high school band currently have only a year of experience due to the lack of funding in the previous years.
The band performs at the school sites, various community events, and football and basketball games. This year, at the homecoming game on Nov. 4, the band will perform during the halftime show. Most students will be performing in this medium for the very first time. The band will also be involved in various performances throughout the city especially during the holiday season, performing Christmas carols and concerts.
Last year, more than 200 students participated at the elementary level. At the high school level, currently, there are about 40 students in the band, of which 10 are enrolled in the color guards. The band program is open to all students who are willing to learn techniques and practice hard. Hanson anticipates that in the next five years, the marching band will have at least 150 students. He also plans to start a jazz band.
Newark Education Foundation is provides support and funds for the music program. If you would like to help support the band please contact Jim Reese at (510) 793-1400.