HSU director gives Hope bands clinic

HOPE – The director of the Henderson State University bands gave what might be termed a “mini-clinic” for Hope Public Schools bands students here Wednesday as concert season assessment competition approaches.

HPS Director of Bands Chris Davis hosted Dr. Shaun Popp, HSU director of bands in Arkadelphia, through the day with each class in the bands program to provide Hope musicians with a taste of higher-level instruction and pointers for the assessment performance.

Davis said the assessment competition is being conducted online for the first time this year because of COVID-19 constraints.

“This is entirely different for everyone,” he said. “I got an email today saying that recordings are to be submitted on or before the 14th of April.”

Davis said the Hope bands will perform two prepared pieces each, and there will not be a “sight reading” requirement for bands this year.

The HHS Concert Band will perform New Forest March by Johnnie Vinson and The Red Balloon by Anne McGinty. The Hope Academy of Public Service Symphonic Band will perform Little Scotch Suite by Leroy Jackson and Courage March by Harold Bennett, Larry Clark arrangement. The Yerger Junior High Band will perform The Tempest by Robert W. Smith and American Spirit March by John Higgins.

Dr. Popp offered some insights on the assessment change, noting that the demand for virtual instruction during the pandemic has diminished the “fun” factor for many band students across all grade levels.

“I’ve had junior and senior students, some near completion of their degrees, tell me, ‘I think I’m going to take a semester off,’” he said.

Many of those students have been faced with family illnesses or economic changes because of the COVID-19 crisis, he said.

Consequently, Popp said band directors in the public schools have faced challenges never before addressed.

“It is difficult to learn to play an instrument on a computer,” he quipped.

Popp said he has been recruiting students across Arkansas this spring with a message to “stay with the music.”

He said there are currently some 130 musicians in the HSU instrumental music program, half of whom are not music majors.

“But, they are all on scholarship,” Popp said.

He said the instrumental music program at HSU not only offers scholarships for non-music majors, it also operates one of the longest-standing summer “band camp” programs in Arkansas.