The clock ticks, the metronome beeps, the valves of the euphonium click. Freshman Katie Rheney practices her etude for her second hour straight, cleaning up the technique and mastering the dynamics. Each and every band student is expected to live up to this standard, practicing and making their skill on the instrument they play at a higher level. The B wing is constantly crowded with the sounds and musicality of these instruments for this exact reason.
“The philosophy behind practicing is not just about getting better at advanced music, it is about getting better on your instrument. A baseball team doesn’t practice harder or better because of the particular team they are playing that week. They practice hard because they need to be the best they can be – regardless of their opponent,” band and orchestra director, Daniel Mussachio said. “So it is with practicing music that you should practice accurately and as much as you can to better yourself on your instrument – not just to better yourself on a piece of music.”
The pressure of a looming tournament-style event known as ‘Solo and Ensemble’ forces most students to practice and practice for hours on end.
“The acoustics in the B-Wing hall are excellent. Great ring, and great sound. They’re really good for a musician to work on tone production. Students enjoy playing fun front of others. They always have an audience in the B-Wing to help get the nerves out,” band director Jarrett Lipman said.
When it comes down to it, rehearsing music and pieces benefits the playing and mindset of an instrumentalist whether it’s for getting out the jitters or just making their sound better.
“I like to practice in the B wing because there’s a lot of open space, it sounds good in there and since a lot of people are in there most of the time, it gets rid of my nerves for performing in front of people before performances or my lessons and stuff like that,” Rheney said.
Many motivations still exist, however, to force a student towards the actions of practicing on their instrument.
“Students are motivated by many things to practice. Why do students study? They want good grades, their parents make them, they enjoy the subject, they are motivated by their teacher. All of these apply to practicing as well,” Mussachio said. “Does it mean practicing is always enjoyable? Not always – but a good musician, like a good student, realizes it’s necessary for them to be pleased with their performance.
This is shown in the case of junior Fernando Morales as well, who is in an ensemble with Rheney and continues to practice every day of the week.
“My motivation to practice is just so I can get better and help others get better along with me and eventually get into a DCI over the summer,” Morales said.
DCI stands for Drum Corps International and is a form of marching band for after these students graduate from high school.
“ We are very fortunate at Claudia Taylor Johnson High School to have highly motivated students,” Mussachio said. “When you practice, two things must take place for you to be successful… You must practice (in a methodical manner) the correct way to play your instrument and your music… and you must practice regularly.”
Any spare time that isn’t being used, students may use to practice. There’s even a class called Instrument Ensemble that is created to let students practice.
“Many students have to be on campus before school starts and late after, and they squeeze homework and practicing in while they are here. Students should practice whenever it best fits their busy schedules,” Lipman said.
Therefore, with all of that being said, the B Wing being filled with the sound of instruments galore may be loud but it is in good intentions.
“We run out of practice rooms, and practice space. Many times of the day, all of the practice rooms in choir, band, and orchestra are full. The music halls are also filled with rehearsals. The loft and auditorium spaces are full with students rehearsing,” Lipman said. “Many students wishing to practice go to the hall as a last resort because it’s one of the only other places in the B Wing they can work… The B-Wing is definitely ALIVE with music.”
However, there is a much more troublesome side to the B Wing practicing.
“Most of the time if I get complaints, and I do, it’s usually from the teachers in the choir rooms and the speech and debate rooms since it’s pretty loud for them and they won’t be able to teach their classes,” Morales said. I usually just move out of the way and find somewhere else to practice.”