KINGMAN - For the second time in five years, the Kingman High School marching band has taken every prize possible at the Arizona Band and Orchestra Directors Association state festival.
The KHS marching band, which comprises about 90 students, earned the top honor for their division at Saturday's competition, held at Hamilton High School in Chandler. The band earned the "Superior with Distinction" rating from judges, and also managed to win awards for each of the five caption categories: music, general effects, percussion, visual and auxiliary.
"We've kind of had a history of getting at least a superior rating," said Band Director Michael Schreiber. "But the last time we had this type of total was 2005. This is the best that can be done at this competition."
KHS competed with 35 other bands from around the state in its size division, with just four sharing the same rating. One of the top ten Division II bands in the state, KHS will go on to the ABODA state championship this coming Saturday at Phoenix College, where it will hope to outdo it's seventh place ranking from last year's competition.
"This is the second year we've had the state championship format," Schreiber said. "We're hoping to go higher this time."
But regardless of how they ultimately do, this year has already proven to be a remarkable debut for Schreiber, who took over for outgoing band director Gino Hernandez following Hernandez's relocation to Wyoming last year. Having served as one of Hernandez's own band students at one point, Schreiber went on to teach music at Black Mountain school in Golden Valley in 2006, and has been working with the KHS band since then.
"Schreiber's just awesome," said KHS Principal Pat Mickelson. "It has been a completely seamless transition from Mr. Hernandez to Mr. Schreiber."
Despite the accolades, however, Schreiber credits the students themselves as the true talent, adding that the marching band has had to pour countless hours of practice into their show, both in and outside of the classroom.
"It was just a lot of hard work - the kids had a lot of energy and they put a lot of effort into it," Schreiber said. "Where we're at, and what we've got to work with, these kids have done really well."
While the district administration has continually supported the band in spite of the need for cost-cutting measures, Schreiber said the economic downturn has still had an affect on the band program, particularly on its budget for new instruments and the cost of transporting them from one competition to another.
"Our current band van is both too small and would be lucky to get out of the parking lot," he said. "And this type of competitive environment creates a lot of wear on the instruments - there's a lot of duct tape, glue and solder where there shouldn't be. But we're doing all this with what we've got, competing against programs where just their marching budget is bigger than our whole band budget for five years."
Mickelson noted that, despite the band's budgetary issues, the community has been extremely generous in its support, with many locals using tax credits to donate to the school in order to pay for $30,000 in new uniforms a few years ago.
"We have a very good tradition in this community of supporting our music programs," she said. "We have a lot of people who come to our concerts, and there was a big push community wide to seek the tax credits for the band uniforms."
Both Mickelson and Schreiber believe that, whether or not they take first place at the state championship, the KHS band offers more than just music to those who participate in it. For many, they said, electives such as band class can often mean the difference between a student staying involved in school or slipping through the cracks.
"I don't think you can overstate its importance," Mickelson said. "I know kids for a fact whose participation in these programs not only keeps them engaged, but it actually supports how their brain learns and helps tem do better in other classes."
As for the championship itself, Schreiber said he's less interested in "winning" than he is in simply knowing that his students put everything they had into their performance.
"I don't try to stress 'beating,'" he said. "I'm trying to stress putting on a good show, and that when we walk off that field, we know we've done our best."