Patterson High School's small 27-member band, short of money but full of extra-curricular spunk, has won four first-place trophies and two plaques in a Mid-Atlantic regional band competition in Virginia Beach, Va.
Last year Patterson's musicians won one trophy and a plaque at the same festival, the Fiesta-Val Invitational High School Band Competition, where the other bands were far bigger and richer. This year Patterson's kids went down there and got serious.
They won trophies May 11 for concert band, fourth grade; jazz band; jazz rhythm section (Renee Faikowski on electric bass guitar, Scott Guinto on electric keyboard and Brian Pisani, drummer); and, finally, jazz band solo (Dennis Whitaker playing "Killer Joe" on tenor saxophone). Plaques were won for concert and jazz band performances.
Band director Harry D. Watkins and student band captain Faikowski led the Kane Street school players in the contest. How did they get so good?
"The greatest part of our success story," Watkins says, "is the band's determination to use its limited resources and minimal funding to the fullest advantage.
"The musicians' commitment to the program is outstanding. They're fine players. They come in voluntarily every day an hour early for 'morning band' and play from 8 to 8:40. There's no grade requirement or bonus points for this. The jazz band is 14 players from the concert band and they play after school."
Watkins is somewhat of a rusty flutist who's been teaching American music and instrumental music at Patterson for four years. He commended Mrs. Helen Bush ("the foundation of music here"), the alumni association ("When we need reeds, they help out") and the administration led by F. Z. Thomas ("They support us").
The city school of about 1,600, which Watkins said is one of a number in Baltimore with spirited music programs despite lesser resources than earlier, gets 96 percent of its musicians from the Canton Middle School. Tom Kocher directs Canton's instrumental music program.
Faikowski, the band's student leader and occasional conductor, recently won the alumni association's Lou Miller performance scholarship for trumpet study at Peabody Preparatory. Her college choice is Peabody Conservatory. "She's going to make us famous one day" she's such a good musician, Watkins predicts.
About 20 bands came to Virginia Beach, perhaps less than usual because of the economy. Patterson's group played Henry Fillmore's march, "The Footlifter," Frank Erickson's "Toccata for Band" and a difficult "Chorale and Capriccio" by Caesar Giovannini. The jazz players did Kurt Weill's "Mack the Knife", "Killer Joe" and "Malaguena."