TENNERTON – On Thursday evening, the Buckhannon-Upshur High School Band played its annual Band Review Concert in the B-UHS auditorium.
B-UHS Band Director Garrett Friend recently had a chance to review the band’s progress thus far this year and said he’s happy with the band’s growing membership during an interview with My Buckhannon. Friend also discussed the key role music plays as students progress through high school and enroll in college or join the workforce.
Friend said this year, the band has been particularly busy with many activities including football games, out-of-town parades, in-town parades and the band spectacular.
“The band performs around the region every year, with performances at all home football games, some away games and participation in all town parades,” Friend said. “We are in band spectaculars, which are events where bands all perform their field shows without competing, such as the one at Fairmont Senior High and University High Schools.”
Friend said the band went to the Philip Barbour High School Drumline Exposition, an event that features only drumlines. This year is the first year the B-UHS Band has participated in the Tournament of Bands organization.
“Through TOB, we have the opportunity to compete on Saturdays at official TOB events,” he said. “Along with that, we competed at Music in the Mountains in Kingwood, where we earned second place; the Autumn Glory Festival and Western Maryland TOB, where the band placed first in the parade and first place in their group and all captions; and the Tournament Region 13 Championship, where the band took top honors in Fairmont, placing first in the group and all captions.”
While lots of bands are losing their membership because of academic requirements, Friend said the participation in the B-UHS Band remains strong with about 100 students.
“Along with the 100 members in the marching band at B-UHS, we also have two concert bands, a jazz ensemble and a basketball prep band,” Friend said. “Our drum majors for this school year are Emily Fox and Olivia Caynor.”
Friend said he is pleased with the number of band members, noting membership continues to grow.
But this ‘Band on the Run’ needs funds to go to all those places while representing Buckhannon and Upshur County. Fundraisers include a half-hog raffle and the annual fruit sale.
“We fundraise nearly constantly with many different fundraising opportunities,” he said. “It costs many thousands of dollars for the marching band to function and many more thousands to cover everyday repairs.”
On a positive note, Friend said the Upshur County School Levy assists the B-UHS Band with funding for bus transportation as well as a small number of repairs and music purchases.
“We have a very active Band Boosters organization,” Friend added.
Along with the marching band, students at B-UHS who are interested in music have many options including concert band, symphonic band, the jazz ensemble, basketball pep band, band auxiliary which includes twirling and dance, string orchestra, concert choir, the B-U Soundwaves and theatre productions.
“We have offered non-performing courses in music theory, which is college prep for future music majors; beginner guitar; music appreciation and history; Appalachian Music and music clubs,” he said.
Music and music components make up the ‘A’ in Steam – science, technology, engineering, arts and math – which experts say is vital to learning. Friend said music is important; in fact, he reminds folks that no culture has existed without music.
“For some of our students, their band, choir or orchestra class is the only major activity in which they are involved,” he said. “For others, their ensemble is carefully balanced with multiple athletics, church groups, 4-H, FFA and other activities. We have students who wish to be professional musicians and some who wish to create lifelong friendships.
“Many have heard and read the studies that show a positive correlation between students who participate in music ensembles and cognition,” Friend added. “There is truly a place in the music program for all types of learners, if they are willing to open their minds to diligent practice, teamwork and a sense of being a part of something much older and larger than they are.
“We pride ourselves in providing a positive, yet rigorous climate within the entire department that is concerned just as much with personal well-being and a family atmosphere as we are with being goal-oriented. Students make lifelong connections through music, filling their high school years with memories to last a lifetime.”
Friend said students have plenty of opportunities to use the musical skills they learn at B-UHS in their future.
“Students are able to pursue majors in the music field, whether through performances, education, sound design, music therapy, history or the ever-growing music technology field,” he said. “Some students are skilled enough to enter immediately into the workforce, playing as a freelance musician or working in other performance-related fields.
“In college, most colleges allow non-music majors the ability to audition and play in ensembles, and there are even scholarships available to do exactly that. In fact, music scholarships are extremely attainable for students at the collegiate level.”
For those going to trade schools or jumping right into the workforce, Friend said there are many music activities. These are viable options for those in college as well.
“Students also have the opportunity to play in community bands and the knowledge to start garage bands,” he said. “They can sing in their church choirs or do any number of other things. I don’t play soccer very well anymore, but I can still play my instrument, provided I can still breathe and move my fingers. I will be able to continue the enjoyment of playing through retirement and into old age.”
Friend is originally from Buckhannon but grew up in Bridgeport.
“I came home to West Virginia Wesleyan College where I studied with Dr. James Moore, Dr. Larry Parsons and many others,” Friend said. “I had an interest in teaching high school band from around my junior year in high school, where I got my first real podium time serving as a drum major. From the first summer I graduated from high school, I spent every summer working with bands around the area as a camp instructor for trumpets, brass and drum majors.”
Friend said as a director he hopes to continue to expand the music program offered at B-UHS.
“I hope to continue to grow our music program in quality, while keeping our positive, family-like climate and providing as many opportunities to the students of Upshur County as I can,” Friend said.
An article titled, “Buckhannon-Upshur High School Band History of Our Band,” says the band program of Upshur County has an “uncommonly consistent record, easily reaching back many years.”
It notes the band developed from an orchestral program in 1923 and has been selected as the West Virginia Honor Band many times over.