Experienced teacher, devoted band

EHS Band enjoys a successful year.

During the fall 2011 season, Marching Band placed first in all three of its band competitions.

On top of that, over 30 Concert Band students received a one, or superior, rating at the Spring Solo and Ensemble Festival.

“I think this is one of our best years ever,” Mr. Arata said. “Our Marching Band is as successful as we’ve ever been.”

Although the school year went well for the band, it wasn’t a smooth trip for the students and leaders.

Mr. John Arata, band director, is also a commanding officer of the Lambert-based 571st Air National Guard Band, so he has the additional duties that accompany this position.

He had to commit one weekend a month to the Air National Guard, play at multiple venues with his National Guard band, Sidewinder. They even appeared on “The Ellen Show.”

However, his deployment overseas affected the 126 students involved in band. Mr. Arata was stationed in Afghanistan from July 6 until after Labor Day in September.

Although, Mr. Arata was not present, plans were in place for Mr. Neil Hershey, Wildwood Middle School band teacher; Ms. Cassie Renner, assistant band director; Mrs. Denise Dauw, Wildwood Middle School band teacher and Mr. Christopher Sakwoski, assistant band director, to direct the band students during that time.

The students saw how the assistant directors took control and lead the Marching Band during band camp and practices the first 3 weeks of school.

“Having Mr. Arata gone was difficult, but I think the support that we got from Mr. Hershey from Wildwood really made the time with Mr. Arata away a whole lot easier,” Alex Roberds, drum major, said.

Having the band director gone could have been a scary experience for students new to the leader position, like Roberds, whose job is to conduct the Marching Band along with two other students. Nevertheless, Mr. Hershey, Ms. Renner, assistant Mrs. Dauw and Mr. Sakwoski helped the students learn and stay on track.

“Everything went pretty smoothly,” Mr. Sakowski said. “Before I started here, they had it all set up and had a plan in place. Ms. Renner, anytime I didn’t know what was going on, knew how to answer.”

Upon returning, Mr. Arata reunited with his band that was getting along well. Mr. Hershey left to WMS and Mr. Sakowski became an official part of the EHS band.

“Mr. Arata has a really high standard for us to achieve because he’s used to directing the Air Force Band,” Cristin Selle (10) said.

Mr. Arata’s time spent with the Air National Guard band has had a lasting effect on the band at Eureka.

The students have not lost anything from having a band director who balances military duties and school duties.

“My military career enhances my ability as a band director because I know a lot more music and I have had the opportunity to work with some very fine musicians in the Air National Guard,” Mr. Arata said.

Directing and performing with an Air Force Band and appearing on Ellen gave him experience and showed him diversity in music.

“I just think directing band is something he loves to do,” Andrew Shryock (11) said. “He’s definitely the guy for the job because he has such a passion for it.”

Mr. Arata’s experience was not the only reason band did well.

“The kids are always real good,” Ms. Renner said. “I think everybody stepped up to the plate.”

Every person involved in making the band run, including directors, section leaders and students, put in the time.

In addition to in-school band class, Marching Band practiced every Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. Individual sectionals practiced after school for the different instrument groups.

The Marching Band also played during half times at football games to cheer on the team and prepare themselves for the performances at competitions.

This effort and participation continued on in second semester. Band split into three different concert bands; Symphonic Band, Concert Band and Freshman Band. Zero hour Jazz band began, as well.

Concert band students performed at various festivals such as Solo and Ensemble and Music in the Parks.

Jazz band students practiced every Tuesday through Friday, coming in for zero hour at 7 a.m. they were seen performing in the Commons certain mornings throughout second semester.

Band students and the directors who put in the extra time for band found this year as a chance to learn new things.

“Being in band has taught me that you need to be a team player,” Terra Willard (10) said. “It’s not just about being one person in your section who plays real well, you have to come together as a group and blend together and really feel what’s going on and learn from that.”

It may seem like playing an instrument is a solo sport, but the support, cooperation and effort is necessary to the band as a whole.

Mrs. Dauw is a firm believer in this and is glad to see her students learning the concept.

“Unlike other core areas where each student is responsible for their own grade performance, band holds each student accountable as their decisions effect the whole,” Mrs. Dauw said.

Whatever problem may occur in the future, the band has shown this year that they overcame any adversity with their commitment and drive.