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Slabaugh settles in as Davis High band director

Tom Slabaugh works with students in the Davis High School Bands, preparing for Thursday's "Winter Rhapsody" concert. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

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From page A1 | December 19, 2012 |

That’s the ticket

What: Davis High School Bands’ “Winter Rhapsody” concert

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Brunelle Performance Hall, Davis High School, 315 W. 14th St.

Admission: Free, but donations to the DHS Band Boosters are welcome

Longtime Davis High band director Fred Lange retired last June, and Tom Slabaugh was hired over the summer to take the baton. Slabaugh’s now had several months to settle in, and he and his band students will be showing off their music-making at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the annual “Winter Rhapsody” concert in the Brunelle Performance Hall at Davis High, 315 W. 14th St.

“We’re excited about the concert for several reasons,” Slabaugh said. “This will be the first performance of the current academic year for the Concert Band. They’ve made tremendous strides since we started back in August.”

The Concert Band includes about 60 students, including quite a few sophomores. The Symphonic Band is an auditioned group that includes more juniors and seniors, with a little over 60 members. And then there’s the Jazz Band, with about 25 students, focusing on that particular branch of music.

“The Jazz Band is preparing to audition for the Next Generation Jazz Festival, organized through the Monterey Jazz Festival,” Slabaugh said. “The Symphonic Band is preparing to audition in March for the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic, which is the only international clinic of its type.”

The band will be preparing Percy Grainger’s “Lincolnshire Posy,” a 16-minute masterpiece composed in 1937, incorporating folk songs that Grainger heard on a trip through that part of England in 1905-06.

“It’s an extremely difficult piece, and the kids are excited about playing it,” Slabaugh said.

The director also is working with composer Garrett Shatzer of UC Davis, who will create a new piece of music for the Davis High band program.

“It’s a process that is really cool,” Slabaugh said. “(Shatzer) is taking the kids through the commissioning process, rather than just giving them the finished piece. He’s already come in and started listening to the group, and then he’ll be bringing things in as he starts to work on the piece. The students are going to be integrated into the whole process, so the music is going to be representative of the student ensemble as well as the composer.”

Another project is the new band scholarship, named in honor of Lange, Slabaugh’s predecessor.

“The Band Boosters wanted to honor Fred’s legacy, and they figured the best way they could do it would be to offer scholarships for students in grades 9-12 who are interested in learning instruments that are particularly needed in the band,” he explained. “This year, those instruments were tuba, French horn, bassoon and oboe.

“We provide the students who qualify with an instrument and scholarship money for lessons. An outside adjudicator picks the kids. It’s a great way to honor Fred’s legacy and grow the band program.”

For the past 15 years, before joining the DHS faculty, Slabaugh had been working with college bands. Teaching high school students is different, he’s discovering.

“What’s best about it is that I get to spend more time with them (the high school students). With college kids, they were really busy every day, trying to balance their lives, and the band only meets a few times a week. Here at the high school, I get to see the students every day, and experience more of them because of that constant daily connection.

“And I also teach band at Chávez Elementary and at Emerson Junior High/Da Vinci Charter Academy. I had forgotten how much I like teaching all those different ages. Introducing the younger kids to an instrument is such a joyful experience, and seeing them grow in junior high and then high school, as they understand the breadth and depth of music, is a whole other level.

“It’s refreshing.”

— Reach Jeff Hudson at jhudson@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8055.

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