Hockinson High School’s new band room has only been fully operation for a couple of months, but band director Corey McEnry is already seeing big changes.

“They’re not only practicing more—they’re practicing better,” he said.

One reason is that the music program now has a dedicated space that includes a main rehearsal hall, an ensemble room and four practice rooms. Until this year, practice rooms were storage closets containing tech equipment and instruments, and the rehearsal hall was the auditorium, which musicians shared with drama, P.E. classes and assemblies. Band members spent part of every rehearsal setting up and putting away chairs and equipment.

“We’re getting the equivalent of an extra rehearsal day per week with this room,” McEnry said.

Another benefit to the new facility is a sound system that, with the push of a button, can make the rehearsal hall and rooms sound like almost any acoustical setting. Whether they’re preparing for a performance in the HHS Multi-Purpose Room or for competition in an arena, students can get a sense of how long their notes will linger and how the sound will bounce off the walls.

“The students are thinking more critically and paying greater attention to detail,” McEnry said.

Senior Dana Robertson, who plays trumpet in Jazz Band and French horn in the Wind Ensemble, says having a dedicated practice space has changed the dynamic of the band.

“We can focus on our music more. I think everyone has gotten swept up in the excitement, and everyone’s putting in more effort,” she said. “We’re improving faster than we did before.”

But it isn’t just the facilities that make the music ensembles shine. McEnry said the strong music program at Hockinson Middle School, consistent support from the district and families who encourage their students and volunteer with the program also make a big impact. And one more thing:

“There’s something about Hockinson kids,” McEnry said. “They’ve always been hard workers.”

Catch the band at every home HHS boys and girls basketball game, and at upcoming parades and festivals.