Marching to the music

Phillip Brents

Tue February 28, 2017 3:18pm

Music plays an important role in each of our lives, and thus plays an important role in school curricula. In fact, March is Music in the Schools Month.
Each school in the Sweetwater Union High School District has its own music department, though the offerings vary at each school.
For instance, the band program at Olympian High School includes 145 musicians and 30 color guard members. The school offers a wind ensemble (an auditioned group), concert band, a percussion class and an ensembles class. 
The school also offers orchestra, choir and mariachi in the instrumental music program. There is also an AP music theory class.
OHS music program director Eric Mabrey said there are a variety of things that lead to students being attracted to music. Theories abound from intrinsic rewards to learned appreciation, he said. 
“I think to a certain extent an adventurous desire initially draws students to try producing something that they’ve spent so many years enjoying while growing up,” explained Mabrey, who has taught in the Sweetwater Union High School District for 29 years, the last 11 at Olympian High School, and also serves as the district’s band committee chair.
“Music is almost always a part of a child’s upbringing, either by hearing what their parents listen to or by hearing what parents want them to hear to soothe, calm or even to get them moving,” Mabrey said.
“As they get older and there is an opportunity to participate in this and create something that they could only previously listen to, the adventurous step into the opportunity. There is an internal connection to music that is worldwide: every culture has some form of musical expression.”
Music-making is a year-round endeavor.
Marching bands compete in field shows during the first semester; concert band performances take place during the second semester.
Mabrey said the OHS band has received many awards at competitions since the school opened in 2006. 
“We participate in about six or seven competitions in the marching season and two or three festivals during concert season,” he explained. “We also participate in non-competitive events, including two Veteran’s Day parades and the Chula Vista Starlight parade.” 
District-wide music events include the Sweetwater Summer Arts Academy, band pageant, holiday sing, mariachi night, honor band concert, district show choir, Bonita Historical Society benefit, district choral festival, Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association, district Stringfest, district color guards and drumline show and district orchestra concerts.
“I’ve found that, generally, kids want to really enjoy their opportunities to play music,” Mabrey said. “Giving them every opportunity to play, play a variety of music, have a variety of performance opportunities, and just learn to enjoy creating something that others can appreciate draws students into a program. They stay because they are getting the intrinsic rewards they want.”