Community members and students not currently enrolled in band classes volunteer to help fill out the sound in Woodland High School’s Pep Band by playing during football games throughout the season. The volunteers bring their instruments and a heaping helping of good spirits to help the high school pep band enthuse the crowd as spectators cheer on Woodland’s Beavers.
Bryanna Steck, director of Woodland Public Schools’ band programs, reached out to community members and student musicians not currently enrolled in band to increase the size of the school’s pep band while she works on increasing student enrollment in the district’s band programs. “The combination of the new, beautiful high school stadium and the open air means we need to have a large band to produce the big pep sound,” she explained. “Community members and students who couldn’t enroll in band due to busy school schedules graciously volunteered to help out and it’s been a great experience!”
Jim Bair, a Woodland graduate in the class of 1988 and an accomplished trombonist, returned to play in the band last year when his daughter, a senior at the time, encouraged him to help out. “When my daughter asked me to play because there were no trombonists in the band, I was a little nervous because I hadn’t played in 20 years,” he said. “I picked it right back up, and since I love watching the games, this was a great way to help out!” For Bair, playing music is a family affair as his father played tuba in Woodland High School’s band, too. “I was born and raised in Woodland, and I really enjoy the small town feel here,” said Bair. Steck commends Bair for his commitment and dedication to helping the band. “Jim is a consistent member of the band who played all last year and went on our trip to Yakima for the playoffs,” said Steck. “He even helped us out as a great chaperone during the trip!”
Steck even enlists her own friends to participate. Dan Morrill, an accomplished musician and choir singer currently living in Portland who met Steck four years ago in the Portland Symphonic Choir, played his tuba during Friday’s game after Steck encouraged him to attend. “I’m a stock broker by day and love making music on the side; if there was a way to fully support my family by playing music, I would certainly do that,” said Morrill. “Music is a fabulous thing that provides a form of expression for so many people; it’s a way to fill your soul.”
In addition to community member volunteers, current high school students who couldn’t enroll in band due to busy schedules join in on the fun. “I’ve been playing guitar for four years and started volunteering at the beginning of this school year because I enjoy the energy during the games,” said Gage Andrews, a Woodland freshman.
Tyrelle Massey, a Woodland senior and guitarist, agrees with Andrews. “I really enjoy the freedom playing music gives you,” he said. “I really like supporting the Woodland community, and playing in the band is a way for me to give back by rallying the audience to support our team.”
Current band students appreciate the support. “Having talented musicians volunteer really fills out our sound during games,” said Brannon Record, a Woodland junior and currently-enrolled drummer in the band. “Playing music boosts your self-confidence, increases your self-esteem, and even improves your math skills since reading music is all about fractions and timing.”
Steck intends to increase Woodland’s band program, which starts in fifth grade, by setting ambitious goals. “This is my second year teaching in Woodland and I want 70 students enrolled in high school band by my seventh year in Woodland,” she said. “We currently have 36 students enrolled at the middle school level which is double what it was last year and, hopefully, those students will move on to the high school band.”
Steck addressed some of the challenges involved in getting students to participate in band. “The nature of learning to play an instrument means band programs typically lose students over time, not gain them, due to the learning curve involved in learning to play an instrument,” she explained. “We want younger students to see how much fun it can be to play an instrument and join the band so they can participate throughout their school career!”
In order to make learning music accessible to all students, Steck invites donations of musical instruments so students who can’t afford to rent or buy their own instrument may borrow one from the schools. Community members interested in donating their instruments can drop them off at the Woodland Middle School and High School offices. “We’re incredibly grateful for any donations we receive,” said Steck.