High school and middle school music programs across the nation annually participate for the chance to be recognized as the top 25 percent of bands.

For the first time in Red Oak Middle School history, the Foundation for Music Education recognized the honors band with the Mark of Excellence Award.

Megan Czerwieski, the band director, is in her sixth year at Red Oak Middle School and decided to submit two recordings to the Foundation of Music Education since it had never been done in the past. Another influence was the Red Oak High School band director, Steven Moss, who submitted recordings for the first time the year before and received the recognition. As a side note, the ROHS band was recognized for the second time this year.

“This is the first time we have entered and the first time we have been recognized for it, so that was a great surprise,” Czerwieski emphasized.

The honors band is the school’s top-level performing band and is comprised of approximately 65 seventh and eighth graders.

Czerwieski submitted two recordings of the UIL performances from the 2017-18 school year, which included musical pieces, “A Walk in the Morning Sun” by Pierre La Plante and “Canarios Fantasia” by Douglas Akey.

After the recordings are submitted, three nationally renowned band directors provide feedback and rank the bands.

“The judges commented on the maturity level the students played with, the ease of their technique, how well they listened and were responding to each other,” Czerwieski elaborated. “There was also some critical feedback on what we need to do better to make it sound easier.”

When it comes to Czerwieski’s coaching philosophy, she analyzes the several pieces that encompass the middle school band puzzle. She focuses on music education, musicianship where the students create art, and in the meantime, she works with students with various backgrounds and combines them to create music.

This year, Czerwieski plans to pick music that will challenge the students but is still enjoyable to play.

In addition to the entire group, three eighth grade band students were highlighted for their efforts in the honors band last year.

Grace Cowger currently plays the French horn and expressed her thoughts when she heard the good news as "really surprised because I didn’t know we sounded that good."

The achievement is significant to Cowger, who hopes to make the all-region honors band. To get there, she will work on staying steady with her tune as she sometimes gets caught up in the emotion of the music.

One euphonium player, Connor Bergman, had the same reaction as his classmate. Bergman is known for his dedication and practices routinely, which proved to pay off.

“Connor lives at the band hall. If we let him, he’d probably bring a pillow to stay here,” Czerwieski joked.

For Bergman, the band has taught him to set goals and the meaning of accomplishment. Last year he achieved first chair and made the all-region honors band. This year he plans to make the honors band during the regional competition.

Michaela Ballard plays the clarinet and plans to make the honors band for all-region as well. When she heard about the Mark of Excellence Award, she was surprised like her classmates.

“I was kind of caught up in other people being better than me, and I’m like, ‘wow, we are in a band that is really good,’” Ballard said.

To get where she is now, Ballard practiced daily, and took the leadership from eighth graders seriously and utilized their support. Now she is in that role and plans to practice harder this year.

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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450