On May 20, the Taft Jazz Band won the Oregon Music Education Association State Championship at Mt. Hood Community College. It was a great year for the Taft Jazz Band and the Symphonic Band. Additionally, the Taft Symphonic Band placed second in the OSAA competition.
Collin Stegner, Musical Director of Jazz and Symphony Bands, said, “All of the students at Taft Jazz Band have an incredible work ethic and musicianship. They have worked hard to achieve their goals and exceeded all expectations. They have been invited to the National Jazz Competition this year.”
One of Taft’s unique features is that a sixth grade band has been required since 2016. Additionally, each student must choose whether to participate in the band or the choir. Initially, all Taft Elementary School students were bussed to high school to begin each school day as a band class.
At that time, Nick Lupo, who was the principal of Taft Elementary and is now the current principal of Taft 7-12, and Majalise Tolan, who was the principal of Taft 7-12, and is now the district administrator for the secondary school, had researched the benefits of music education on improving math and reading scores. Therefore, they approached community partners Siletz Bay Music Festival and Lincoln City Cultural Center and applied for a grant from the Oregon Community Foundation to fund this program. Schools received a grant, and by the end of the second year of having the required band, they could see improvement in both math and reading at all levels.
Nick Lupo, Taft 7-12, said: “It was obvious that this exposure to music and dedication to learning an instrument was a keeper. He helped children at all levels, regardless of their economic or social situation at home. So we thought of a name to describe what it was and found Music is Instrumental.
In 2018, a non-profit organization was created with the same name, Music is Instrumental, to continue to support the fundraising efforts and community partnerships needed to fully support this growth in music education and expand it in other schools in the district, such as Waldport Middle and High which received funding in 2019.
It made a difference for the students themselves.
Divine Matthews, who is graduating this year and plays tenor saxophone, said: “It’s great to finally be able to reach victory state and get those expectations and achieve something that I’ve worked for. so hard for the past six to seven years, it felt like a dream as a sixth grader to be able to say I won the state.
Sam Cortez, who plays percussion, said of the experience, “Personally, it was nice to see us win the state because it ultimately took us six years to win the state. But it was also cool to see our growth over the years and how we all communicated and stayed close through the power of music. I would recommend joining the group. I liked that. It kept me busy at times, and overall it was a great experience for me. I always hope to have music in my life, and if not, always play a little something on the side.
Congratulations to the Taft graduates and original band members. Many thanks to all community partners, and Music is Instrumental. If you would like to support this program, please consider donating at musicisinstrumental.net
Song ending clip; “Sing, Sing, Sing”