Music Changes Lives: A History Lesson

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Jim Swiggart (now retired) of the Moore Oklahoma Band Program wrote me a nice note recently on my influence on the development of the program.

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Norlan, just had contact with you about an hour ago and got my memory activated! Not sure I have ever shared this story to you but want to make sure you know how important you have been to the Moore Band Program.

Do you remember finishing your degree and contacting me with the proposition that the Quintessential Brass could play a month long artist-in-residence program for us? Sure enough, there was a State of Oklahoma program that could underwrite it and we jumped at the opportunity.

Your quintet arrived, we bussed all students to Central JH Auditorium for your introductory concert and it was great. Then your group went from school to school, performing, breaking students into groups and mentoring them in ensemble playing and finally after a month, a farewell concert. All before Christmas. Now, our students were in love with playing and working in small ensembles and we began shaping up our solo/ensemble list for contest.

WOW, March rolls around and we have 18 buses packed with students and equipment trucks for instruments going on I-35 highway to contest. After we returned I was very upset that I didn’t get a helicopter to take a picture of that many busses tailgating down the highway!!! Over 700 students going to solo/contest because of the inspiration you and your colleagues provided.

Think about it, Moore was a blue collar band and I only had a handful of students able to afford lessons in the high school top band. So, close to 800 students went to contest, did extremely well, fell in love with their instrument and learned to play with discipline and interact with a colleague. MATURITY!

Now fast forward a couple of years and that wave of students is now the Moore High School band in 1987. We have right at 300 enrolled (recruiting over 700 beginners each year) and get an invitation to attend the National Concert Band Contest in Nashville. We enter, and each of our bands competes in separate classes (4A-3A-2A) against some of the best bands of similar size from the USA. Each of our bands is named Champion of their class.

My band, 4-A is national champion and played Semper Fidelis and The Pines of Rome (5 students taking private lessons) and it was possible because EVERY student was motivated to play at a high level from solo/ensemble. My band played their selections at the awards ceremony so all could hear what they needed to achieve to be the best. Lots of music majors from those years.

Thank you SIR!!!!

Too many schools do not emphasize solo/ensemble. That is where you stand on your own talent and actually get to express yourself. Think about how many students are playing simple support lines every day and never get to achieve expressing themselves with a solo line!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

OK, that’s all for now.

Jim Swiggart Moore, OK Bands, retired

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