The marching uniforms were put away in November, but the Benicia Panther band has been extremely active on stages and in concert halls for the past four months.
Honor Band season had a successful run, with rehearsals and performances from January until Feb. 23. This audition-only chain of events began before Thanksgiving break, with the Panther Band being highly represented in all four Honor Bands of the winter span. The progression moved upwards from the county, then to northern California and finally to the State levels. The band was a steady presence and comprised large portions of each group. The Panther Band was privileged to share music clinics, rehearsals and concerts with other top high school musicians from around the state of California.
In addition, they played pieces worthy of university-level music programs, and were directed by accomplished college conductors from several colleges along the west coast. Events like this allow a deeper understanding of music, where the students see how a piece can be open to so many interpretations, despite the ‘recipe’ being written in black and white.
The musicians had only hours or days together. They went from strangers to friends easily, and became a team very quickly. Each time, the audience was treated to a full concert.
As a spectator, it is stirring to hear what high school students can do. However, one musician said it best when he described the thrill of sitting in the middle of all that music while performing it on stage. Knowing the pieces so well, they recognize when it’s coming…the deep reverberation from a tuba as the sound wave travels from the back of the stage and forward through their body, almost a physical push. It’s an enviable position in which the musicians find themselves on stage; as unique a place as a fixed boulder in the middle of an active river.
The Jazz Band jumped into the Honor Band season as well. Eight members of the Panther Jazz Band were selected to represent BHS in Solano County’s 6th Annual High School Honor Jazz Band held at Dixon High School on February 13th. Benicia was one of eleven schools who auditioned for a mere 20 spots. The practice schedule got them home as late as 10:30 p.m. for a month of Wednesday evenings. Many of their pieces allowed almost all the Panthers a chance to solo as well. This has its own set of nerves attached to the thrill of having the spotlight among so many accomplished peers.
Because those wearing the tux and gown never slow down, the Panther Band Wind Ensemble added at least seven after-school practices since mid-February, in addition to their normal practices during the school day. This was to prepare for two Wind Ensemble concerts, one of which was performed for the Benicia community on Wednesday, March 6th. The Panther Wind Ensemble has remained undefeated in competition for more than a decade. This is noteworthy because the band has new members each year as seniors graduate and new members join.
Mid-week concerts are always a challenge for people to fit into schedules, but upon arriving and settling in, one family member mentioned having a long and tiring workday. She closed her eyes and listened, feeling the effects of the calming melodies. For many, this was just what was needed to give a boost to the remainder of the week.
One piece had fourteen different groups of four students who piped in with their quartets. The music shifted so quickly from group to group like a firefly, keeping the guests searching and trying to pick out the instruments by ear.
Rounding out a busy March was their performance at the new, state-of-the-art concert hall at Sonoma State University. Thirteen bay area high schools, in addition to one from Clovis, were invited to perform in this first year of the Invitational Festival. Accustomed to performing on high school campuses, the students found it a rare treat to perform in a university concert hall, where acoustic richness infused the hall with the warmth of honey.
The formal wear will be put away for about a month. But this does not mean there is rest. The band is also in the middle of their Winterguard season, where the Color Guard and the percussion musicians have been competing in an indoor circuit. Their season will end April 6th. This has overlapped the Honor Band season, which shows that the band is constantly in motion and very adept at multi-tasking.
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