I'm sure you remember all those previous posts about the world's largest marching band and the $65 million football stadium, etc...Texas does things in a big way and we happened to land in the part of Texas where they do football and bands the BIGGEST. Allen is a ridiculously HUGE high school and the band is equally HUGE. 700+ kids.
So in 6th grade when it was time to declare an arts choice and McKay said he wanted to be in the band and that he wanted to play the trumpet, I thought, "Holy cow, he's going to drown in that ocean of kids..."
We have since learned that the bands here are really organized and intentional. There is no drowning. They set the kids up for immediate success. The whole school district is one giant organization that works together (musically, anyway) to prepare all these prospective band kids as 6th graders to eventually become part of the massive Allen Eagle Escadrille when they get to the high school. All the middle school band directors also work with the elementary schools so they know all the incoming 7th graders...and so the 7th graders know them...their expectations, their directing styles, and also all the Allen fight songs. At the end of the school year, the 6th grade band students play in the middle school spring concerts with the 7th and 8th graders, and usually a few of the high school directors make an appearance. They're a pretty big deal around here.
In 6th grade, McKay worked with two of the middle school directors and loved them. He picked up the trumpet pretty quickly and he practiced all the time. Like ALL the time. Every spare minute at home was spent playing the trumpet. Both directors were extremely encouraging and excited about McKay's enthusiasm for the trumpet. 6th grade was a great year for him.
|McKay warming up the band before the 6th grade spring concert|
This year, as a 7th grader, he made it into Honors Band, which he was thrilled about. And then proceeded to secure first chair in that band, which consists mostly of 8th graders, for the entire year. McKay made All-City and All-Region Band, and scored all 1s on his first Solo and Ensemble audition. Apparently that's unusual. The high school band directors already know his name. Like...they talk about him with the high school kids. And the high school kids know his name, too.
|All City Band concert|
|All Region auditions|
|All Region Results|
|McKay and his favorite trumpet partner, Ryan|
McKay has a few friends in those higher bands and he would always rather stay and listen to the high school kids than go home...especially when home happens to be a hotel. So we stayed. And it was SO worth it! Each band got progressively better as the night went on, and four bands later they ended with a tribute to this awesome director, Mr. Ferguson, who is retiring this year after a 40+ year directing career. What a wealth of experience and knowledge! And he happens to have taken an interest in McKay. After the gifts and video tribute, the whole audience including all the band kids were invited into the PAC lobby for a little reception. Mr. Ferguson had a huge flock of people anxious to shake his hand and talk to him, but he took the time to not just acknowledge McKay, but to stop and chat with him, to encourage him in his future endeavors and tell him to keep being great, and to pose for a picture. What a kind and generous man!
This cute boy is Andrew. He is a Junior at the high school and has totally taken McKay under his massive wings and decided to be his best band friend. They met while McKay was helping set up chairs for the All City auditions in the fall and somehow became buddies. Andrew is a tuba player...like the BEST tuba player EVER. And he comes to McKay's concerts. He stayed to see the All City results with McKay and even lifted him up so he could see his name on the list that was posted way too high on the wall. Andrew came to McKay's All Region auditions. And Andrew's parents recently offered to let McKay live in their guest room so he doesn't have to leave Allen. Amazing...
I am absolutely in awe of the amount of attention and excitement one little trumpet player has drawn in his short time in this band community. And I am so grateful for all the encouragement, support, and patience all of these people...and so many more...have had with him in the last two years. What a blessing McKay has been given to have had so much immediate confidence with this brand new talent. And how grateful I am for this environment of excellence that Allen creates in the same MASSIVE way that they do everything else.
Oh, how we will miss this place and oh, how thankful we are for the many, many wonderful opportunities we have had here.