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Studio sessions: Ardmore school bands record fall concert

Michael D. Smith

As the final note reverberated into silence on Friday morning, Ardmore High School band director John Moreno used his baton to hold concert band members at attention for several moments. Once his colleague T.J. Tolbert gave a signal, Moreno and the rest of the band let out a collective sigh of relief.

Ardmore band director T.J. Tolbert manages recording equipment while colleague John Moreno conducts the high school concert band Friday.

After nearly an hour of playing several pieces of music, the recording session was complete and students were able to move from concert music to competition music. 

“I think it was probably the most polished performance they were able to have,” Moreno said after Friday's recording session.

The fall concert for the Ardmore City Schools band program, like many other annual events, has been drastically altered due to the pandemic. Instead of completely cancelling the concert, however, staff instead figured out a way to record performances from the middle school and high school bands.

“I’ve kind of just been learning on the fly like many of our colleagues across the nation have,” Tolbert said about audio production and engineering. “I got to do some of it in college and learn about it a little bit, not as coursework but just helping out people record things.”

The recordings started at Ardmore Middle School on Thursday and wrapped up at the high school on Friday. Moreno said the recordings would be live streamed during the band program’s annual barbecue next Friday.

The recordings started at Ardmore Middle School on Thursday and wrapped up at the high school on Friday. Moreno said the recordings would be live streamed during the band program’s annual barbecue next Friday.

The Ardmore Middle School concert band records the school fight song on Thursday.

“We decided that this would be a relatively easy way to get people to listen to the kids and, in the future, we want to send off recordings for consideration for honor bands,” Moreno said.

It was not the first time for some band members to record performances. Senior Dalana Morris said music is occasionally recorded for feedback or auditions, but the flute player could not recall recording an entire performance for the public to hear.

Ardmore High School senior Dalana Morris watches the conductor while recording the band's fall concert Friday.

“We don’t really do this. It’s definitely something new,” Morris said. “Recording does take pressure off, but also you can’t get the same feel as being there, in person, with a live audience.”

Junior Charles Brady, the baritone saxophone player, thought the Friday recording went well and agreed with Morris that the feeling compared to a live performance just is not the same. He said the way many of his peers have handled the pandemic-fueled changes has been impressive, especially among younger students.

“They’re handling it quite well. Better than I thought they would,” Brady said. “I think [recording] went as well as it could, considering the circumstances.”

Ardmore High School concert band saxophone players record their fall concert Friday.

The circumstances have been fluid during a young school year full of uncertainty. With marching band performances limited only to home games, the high school musicians and their instructors cannot rely on traditional timeframes.

Because of the uncertainty, Moreno said his high school band students had less than three weeks between first reading the music and recording the performance. In years past, band members have had weeks to months to prepare.

“Normally, for example, for our Christmas concert, we get at least a month. For our spring concert we get two and a half months,” Moreno said.

As a result, the music selected for Friday’s recording was slightly below the level that band members are normally accustomed to. Tolbert noted that the less challenging selection did not translate into less effort from students.

“The students were very focused, treated it like it was a concert, and we were able to get it done very smoothly with no issues,” Tolbert said.

The 64th annual Ardmore Band Barbecue will be held Friday, Nov. 6, at the Ardmore High School Campus. Along with the performances recorded this week being played, other live performances will also be held. Tickets include a barbecue sandwich, two sides and a drink for $8 each. Tickets are available for purchase by calling (580) 221-3001, extension 2142.