Members of the Peninsula High School band took top honors at a contest in Hollywood during a music festival April 27 to 30.
Seventy-eight of the 110 PHS band members went on the trip, according to band teacher Justin Ehli, to compete in a WorldStrides Onstage music festival. Ehli, who has been at PHS for six of his seven years teaching, composed arrangements of “Greensleeves” and the contemporary “African Dreams” by American composer Brant Karrick for the competition, combining his two band classes and percussion class into a single performance group.
That group took home first-place trophies for best band in the AAA category and highest-scoring band, in addition to a special adjudicator’s gold-rating award for best overall group. The PHS students were up against two other AAA bands and groups from 10 schools ranging from middle school to college. In all, some 900 students participated.
“Before the trip, I was thinking to myself that this is probably the best-prepared group musically that I’ve brought on a trip,” Ehli said.
PHS senior and Minter area resident Kara Haggard also won an award for her flute solo at the beginning of “African Dreams.”
“The awards ceremony at Universal Studios was a huge shocker for all of us,” Haggard said. “Usually we’ll go to marching competitions after having practiced really hard for months, stand around in the rain all day and get a participation award for our efforts. So you can imagine it was really crazy for us to get three awards in one night, plus my solo award.”
Haggard took up the flute in Key Peninsula Middle School band and has been playing for seven years.
Tina Burbridge, of Home, was the trip coordinator and a parent chaperone. She has been in the band booster club for six or seven years. “I’m on my my third student going through the band program with another one coming up,” she said. Her daughter, junior Haley Burbridge, plays French horn, trumpet and mellophone.
“They did really well,” Tina Burbridge said.
The booster club helps raise funds to finance band trips, among other things. This year’s efforts included an online fundraiser through Snap-Raise.com, a site most often used by high school sports teams, as well as more traditional methods such as car washes and local restaurant takeovers. The remaining cost per student for this trip was $800, Burbridge said.
The band also participated in a clinic with an old friend: Rickey Badua, Ph.D., director of band music at California State University at Pomona. Badua spent four years revitalizing the PHS band program, Ehli said.
“Rickey laid the foundation for the program, which is why we go on trips and we go to festivals and we do a lot of things, because that’s what a successful band program does,” Ehli said. “So it was nice for me to be able to bring a bunch of kids down there and show him how the program is doing. He said it was stronger than when he left, which was a nice compliment.”
This was the second band trip for PHS junior Sean Doud, of Gig Harbor, who has been playing tuba for six years. “Most of the time we just go to get rid of the seriousness of school and be with the rest of our family, our band family,” he said. “But we took home gold trophies and it was really exciting.
“The hardest part was coming back to AP testing the next week,” he said.