HOPE – The dynamic sound of percussion cadence booms from the band room at Hope High School; at 5 p.m. Classes were dismissed for the day almost two hours ago, yet music still emanates from the MAC center.
The sounds make the passer-by stop in his tracks; someone is playing the famous “Ode to Joy” movement from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. This is not your daddy’s band.
“You can tell that they are committed,” HPS Director of Bands Julie Gladden said.
The Hope Public Schools instrumental music program was resurrected from being almost defunct at the end of the 2016-2017 school year. After a change in leadership this year, the Hope High School marching band has placed “excellent” in three successive contests in October and its drum major and percussion line placed “superior” in Monticello.
“We have a long way to go, but every day it’s leaps and bounds better,” Gladden said. “Overall, I’m really happy.”
Gladden’s students are standing tall these days after “excellent” ratings at the Spa City Invitational in Hot Springs, the University of Arkansas at Monticello Invitational, and the Region II Arkansas State Band/Orchestra Association marching contest.
“We are really trying to teach them how to play well,” Gladden said of the 30-member marching unit.
The HHS Bobcat Marching Band will make its next appearance in the annual Hope/Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade on Dec. 4 at 6 p.m. on Main Street in Hope.
Instrumental performance… the “sound”… is important in marching competition, and is a building block for improvement in technique to produce a concert quality “sound.”
“We can build upon skills that make our next season even better,” Gladden said.
That confidence stems, in part, from the development of an overall instrumental music program that now includes some 55 students at Yerger Middle School and about 137 students in the beginning band program at Beryl Henry Elementary School.
Consequently, Gladden’s marching season leaders become concert season music mentors, as she anticipates spring concert competitions and individual performance auditions such as ASBOA All-Region auditions in December after the traditional Hope Bands Christmas Concert set for Dec. 14 in the HHS auditorium.
ASBOA concert competition is set for March, and the annual Hope Bands Spring Concert on May 10 will round out the concert season.
The spring music season will also see the beginnings of a high school jazz band, the Hope Jazzcats, that will offer a classic “big bands era” sound.
Gladden, who is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Monticello with a degree in music performance, is assisted by Brandon Ellis, who holds a music education degree from Henderson State University; Kathryn Rose, a music education graduate of HSU with a vocal music teaching certification; and, Jessica Osorto, a music education graduate of Arkansas Tech University.