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Band gets superior rating at assessment

The Demopolis High School band got a superior rating in sight reading and excellent marks overall at the Alabama Bandmasters Association music performance assessment (MPA) at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“This is a way for us to have our concert band evaluated against a set standard,” said first-year band director Matt Fields. “Unlike a marching band contest in the fall, we are not competing directly against other bands. What we are competing against is three judges’ opinions of what a particular piece of music should sound like. Our judging panel was the current college band director and two retired high school band directors, both of which had 30 years of experience.

“Also, in a marching band contest, the judges don’t have a copy of your music. At MPA, the judges each have a copy of the conductors’ scores. They can see every part and every note, and they know what is supposed to be there.”

At the MPA, each school prepares three musical pieces to perform for the panel. Demopolis received an overall rating of 2, or excellent, and a score of 1, or a superior rating. The overall rating was a 2.

“In sight reading, when we go in, we only have seven minutes to look at it,” Fields said. “We cannot play at all during those seven minutes. You have to learn it without making any kind of musical sound. That’s something that you try to prepare for, but it is pretty scary for a lot of people.

“The thing that I am most proud of is — even though we received an excellent rating for our on-stage performance — we were the only band that received that and got a 1 in sight reading. That shows that we will be doing well in the future.”

Taking part in the MPA is voluntary for schools. Fields said that most of the musical growth happens in concert season.

“You can challenge your band; you can push them,” he said. “You can do it without the pressure of having a performance every week. You can dig in and develop some technique and do some things that you can’t do during the fall.”

The band will have its spring concert on Tuesday, May 6, at 7 p.m. in the DHS gymnasium.