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Alta High Marching Band Exceeds Expectations

Nov 21, 2014 08:55AM ● Published by Julie Slama

Alta High Marching Band’s dedication helped them to win the state title. Photo courtesy of Caleb Shabestari

In its second year after a long-term hiatus, the 53-member Alta High Marching Band won the state championship.

At the Utah Music Education Association marching band championship held Oct. 31 in St. George, the high school students brought home a trophy for winning the 2A division.

“The band definitely exceeded my expectations,” said first-year marching band director Caleb Shabestari. “They worked so amazingly hard, rehearsing more than 300 hours this fall, and that doesn’t count their individual, section and group practices.”

It wasn’t just at the state championships that the marching band shone. The group won the Oct. 4 Bridgerland Invitational at Utah State University and the Oct. 7 Wasatch Invitational at Copper Hills High in West Jordan.

“We’ve set our standards high for next year. We’d like to move up in size to the 3A or 4A division since bigger bands do well,” Shabestari said.

During the re-creation of the marching band last year, after being dormant many of the years since it was first started in 1978, Canyons School District officials decided students from all the district high schools could join. However, the majority have been Alta students. Shabestari, who was the assistant director last year, became the director last winter.

Shabestari plans to start increasing the number of marching band members immediately by recruiting middle school music students, as well as musicians at other high schools. Those who sing or play in the orchestra can participate in the color guard.

“All 10 members of our color guard were new, and half of them were musicians, and that helps to know how to read music. They don’t necessary need to know how to dance. We’d like to have 20 participate next year,” he said.

Shabestari teaches the marching band to focus on the music as well as how to stir up a crowd. During time-outs at games, they play the usual fun, pep band songs, but during half-time, they create a musical performance.

“It’s not a loud or rowdy half-time show. We play with expression, dynamics, tempo and focus artistically, and our community has appreciated our music,” he said.

This year’s performance was an original composition entitled, “The Road,” and focused not only on the piece, but also on the band’s journey from its beginnings to how hard they have worked this season, Shabestari said.

“I told them to leave no regrets. In June, we held a 60-hour band camp, and since July, they have practiced 10 hours as a whole each week, which is more than most bands practice,” he said.

Through the practices, the marching band has supported one another.

“We created a family since we’ve rehearsed so much together. We’ve built relationships as we’ve practiced, marched—which takes a great deal of physical endurance—and been together,” Shabestari said.

Canyons School District Arts Coordinator Sharee Jorgensen said that has been an important key.

“It’s a great bonding experience for the kids involved,” she said. “They’ve become a team as they’ve worked toward a positive, common goal, and through the experience, they’ve had fun. They’ve done such a great job, that if you saw them for the first time, you’d never know that they’ve just started. They’re at the top of their music, their performance, and we just hope the program grows to get more kids involved.”   
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