By Vicki Clark
Copper Basin News
Mark Weber didn’t hesitate for one minute when he took over the reins of the Ray District Music Department last August. He jumped in with both feet and knew from the beginning he had a great group of students from across the district to work with.
Weber, who holds a B.A. in Music Education along with three Master’s degrees ( Education Curriculum and Instruction, Psychology, and Education Administration), has enjoyed playing music and performing as far back as he remembers and says he knew he wanted to teach since his junior year in high school.
Using the “small, but mighty” scenario he first took a group of RHS students to a motivational workshop in September and the kids, according to Weber, came away with a “we instead of me” attitude that has transcended to a great work ethic.
The RHS Marching Band has been practicing each weekday during class and also every Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. on the football field in preparation for the fall marching band competitions.
This year’s show is called “Horrors Galore” which features music from the Broadway shows and movies of “Little Shop of Horrors” and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
The band first performed its “show” earlier this month at the Eastern Arizona Band Festival and earned an “Excellent” rating and with that a berth in the State Marching Band Festival to be held Nov. 2 at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix. It also participated in the Basha Invitational and was awarded a good rating and earned the Good Sportsmanship Award, a much coveted award with competition from bands from Divisions I through IV.
The band was slated to participate in the U of A Band Day Saturday, Oct. 26, but did not attend due to a conflict with the AIA football playoff tournament. “It was either go to band day or support our Bearcat team,” Weber said. “We chose the Bearcat team.”
A busy schedule is on deck for the music department lasting until spring and includes a Dec. 12 concert featuring the 5th and 6th grade band, the junior high band and the high school band and orchestra.
Also on tap are tryouts for the regional honor band, the EAC Honor Band, the Jr. High and High School band Aboda concert festival and participation in the Highland Jazz Festival.
The biggest star on the horizon is the trip planned for Apr. 24 and 25 when the RHS band will participate in the Parks Concert that will include the Parade Band and Jazz Band Festivals at Disneyland in Anaheim.
Selected students will also take part in an instrumental workshop and have a chance to play along with a score on an animation, working with Disney professionals. “This is an once in a lifetime opportunity,” Weber said.
To get to Disneyland, the band is holding several fundraisers including a spaghetti dinner, date to be announced, a butter braids bread fete (your favorite bandsman has the information) and a silent auction to be held in conjunction with a talent show in Feb.
It will take about $300 per student to attend the Disneyland event. Donations are always accepted and the Arizona school tax credit program allows people to deduct dollar per dollar. Contact the district office for more information and a tax form.
Another project Weber is working on is restoring the past history of the band program. “If you are a past member of the RHS Band, you know that it has a long history of excellence, especially under the direction of Mark Munoz,” he said. “I plan on bringing that tradition of excellence back so it can be seen and offer motivation for current and future students.”
While poking around in the rooms adjacent to the band room, Weber found past band pictures and awards from competitions and band days stored in boxes in a closet. He and the students are now in the process of redisplaying them in new frames and mounting them permanently on plywood boards that can be displayed in the band room and as a stand-alone display in the lobby of the auditorium during concerts for the community to see.
“The awards, pictures and banners date back generations and I think will offer not only a sense of pride in our music program, but motivation to keep it going,” Weber said. “Stuff like this shouldn’t be stored in boxes. I want to keep the Bearcat Band spirit alive and well and exhuming this history is a good way to start.”