Inside the OP Classroom: Band

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Inside the OP Classroom: Band

Justin Oei, Staff Writer

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Tucked into the furthest corner of the school building lies the band room (which has since been renamed “211”). In this room resides Oratory’s resident music ensemble, the concert/jazz band. Started by a former music teacher, Mr. Plagge has been at the helm of this Oratory institution since he arrived six years ago and has since brought it to amazing places.

 

Oratory’s band is different from those at other schools inasmuch that it is a concert and jazz band; other high schools would differentiate between jazz, concert, and wind bands. However, don’t let that fool you — the band is highly acclaimed and has received high marks when in competition. Currently, the band has about 35 members across three sections with musicians at every level from beginner to advanced.

 

On most days, when we enter the classroom we spend a couple minutes on individual warm up in the most cacophonous fashion possible, then get into doing some scales and tuning everyone’s instrument to exactly 440 Hz. We then start playing the pieces we will be performing over the course of the year; this year, they are Mussorgsky’s famed Pictures at an Exhibition, a Germanic-style piece called Black Forest Overture (aka the Succulent Ham Underture), and a jazz piece written by Paul White of the US Army Band called See if I Don’t. Because the band also performs at the annual Christmas at Oratory, we’re also preparing Chestnuts Roasting over an Open Fire and the old favorite, White Christmas. However, showing up and playing isn’t all we do. Students are often engaged in music theory assignments, such as writing twelve-bar blues and formulating solos for See if I Don’t.

Over the course of the year, the band performs at various functions. At school, we perform at various functions, such as Christmas at Oratory and Arts Alive! in the spring (this year’s theme is the Beatles). We also compete outside a school at the Six Flags Music in the Park Day.

 

I asked Mr. Plagge about his impressions of the program over the last six years. He said the following:

 

“I am extremely proud of what our instrumental music program has become now vs. what it was when I arrived six years ago. In my first year, the previous director had retired and left me with a small, workable jazz band of about 17 students. The instrumentation was very uneven, but the students wanted to be there and wanted to work hard. I did my best to make sure that everyone could play together despite varying ability levels (Something I still do to this day). Through our Open House Programs, word of mouth and LOTS of emails and conversations, I was able to grow the program over the years to what is now a 35-member band with what I consider a fairly balanced instrumentation. We have enough of each type of instrument to play both concert band literature and jazz band literature, to be flexible in the level of difficulty of the music we play and to make a well-rounded, great sounding band.

I owe a lot of our success to all of the students who take band, because without you guys coming in every day and wanting to play, there would be no program. The love of music is what keeps us growing on a yearly basis.


I also owe a lot to Mrs. Clark, who has been instrumental in the growth of our music ministry program, and the genesis of a vocal music program and the Performing Arts Club. Between the two of us, I believe we have created exactly what I wanted when I started: A well-rounded music program that serves all of the students of Oratory Prep regardless of their skill-level and can cover the vast number of interests in the performing arts.”

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