Wind ensemble performs alongside elementary and middle school honors bands at the RBUSD Honor Band Concert

The 2017 RBUSD Honor Band Concert, featuring the elementary and middle school honor bands and the RUHS Wind Ensemble, took place on Thursday, March 30. In addition to the Wind Ensemble, band director Raymundo Vizcarra was in charge of rehearsing and directing the middle school honor band, a selective group of musicians from Parras and Adams middle schools.

“In some school districts, you have schools where the program might be stronger at one school and not in another,” Vizcarra said. “[The honor band] is a chance for those kids to play music that is at an advanced level that they would not normally get in their regular classroom.”

According to Vizcarra, having the District Honor Band Concert helps get students excited to continue band by exposing them to more experienced musicians.

“The purpose of it, mostly, is for the kids that are in the elementary school to look forward to going to the middle school,” Vizcarra said. “At the same time, the middle school kids get excited about going to the high school. At the high school, our Wind Ensemble is our select ‘honor band’, if you may. It’s the band that plays the most challenging music. The middle schoolers get to see that from the high school students.”

By combining students from both Parras and Adams, the middle school honor band also serves as an introduction for the new students to Vizcarra’s teaching methods.

“For the honor band, the goal is for them to start to gain some comradery between the different schools, to gain new friendships, and new insights on how to play music,” Vizcarra said. “They start working with me early on. They get to know my style of teaching and I get to teach them some music terms that they may not have been aware of before.”

Auditions for the honor band went out in early Feb., and Vizcarra began rehearsing with the middle schoolers later that month. Three rehearsals took place in preparation for Thursday’s concert.

“They come here, they set up their instruments, and we start determining where they’re going to sit based on their audition placement,” Vizcarra said. “I run the piece once, checking for areas that need a little more work, and that’s where I put my focus on. I always play the piece from beginning to end. Once I see which areas need to be worked on the most, that’s where I center my focus.”

During a typical rehearsal, Vizcarra encountered difficulties in maintaining the young students’ focus.

“It’s always fun to play with new musicians and to gain an insight of what you’re going to sound like,” Vizcarra said. “It’s very exciting, so they tend to talk a lot. When I teach, I’m always about making kids laugh and having fun. But sometimes they overdo it and it takes a while to get their focus back.”

Despite this, Vizcarra enjoys the “youth and the excitement” of the musicians, who look forward to joining the music program at the high school.

“It’s all fresh and new for them,” Vizcarra said. “I can see it in their eyes, especially the eighth graders who are ready to come to Redondo. They’re so excited about coming to school that, after the rehearsal, they stay and chat.”

Eighth grader Aiden Sears, who participated in the Sea Hawk Junior Band Camp for two years, played in this year’s middle school honor band. He says he looks forward to being surrounded by students who are “committed to music” next year.

“This already is like my second home. I love it here and everybody is like a big brother or sister to me and it’s been really great,” Sears said. “I’m just excited for finally having people who share my interests. Music is kind of my passion, and I really enjoy it.”

Vizcarra, who has been teaching the band program for four years now, wishes for more people to come to the concerts and “gain an appreciation for music”.

“I just want people to know that it takes a lot of work to play an instrument,” Vizcarra said. “I think we have a lot of talented students in the district, so I’m able to focus my attention on making them sound more professional. That’s always been my goal when I do concerts. I want to make sure that whenever someone comes to hear us play, they’re going to hear something that’s quality.”