With virtual concerts, DHS band proves the show can go on

This article appeared in the Dartmouth Week on September 20, 2020, by Christopher Shea. To view the original article, please click here.

Despite the postponement of Dartmouth football to February, Memorial Stadium is once again in-use. 

This weekend saw the first two socially distanced shows put on by Dartmouth High’s marching band as part of its fall season of virtual concerts. 

“It’s great to be able to do something like this,” percussion director Tom Aungst said. “The kids were really excited about the season.”

To prepare, the band has been having regular rehearsals via Zoom, Google classroom, and — in since August — in person.

The band is taking many physical precautions when it comes to Covid-19 safety. Students remain socially distant — six feet apart for regular instruments, and thirteen feet for wind instruments — and masks are required for all except those who need their breath to play.

“Six feet is pretty normal distancing for the drumline,” band director Ian Flint said. “Wind is a whole nother story.” 

To meet those regulations, shows were split into different days, with wind playing on Sept. 18  and percussion on Sept. 20. 

At the wind show, the band played a couple of jazz songs. At the percussion performance, the band played two songs about masks — “The Mask of Zorro” and the theme to “Phantom of the Opera.” 

“This music was actually something we did in 2001,” Flint said. “We weren’t sure if the competitive season would happen, so we chose something that would work for this season.”

Normally, the band would play these songs in-front of a judge where they can immediately get outside feedback on how they did. 

Since the concerts are done virtually, the band instead records its shows and uploads them online where judges will watch the submitted videos and rank the bands.

While this can take multiple takes, Flint said his students try their best to perform the song once.

“Our goal is always consistency,” Flint said. 

Aungst agreed, adding that, if anything, going virtual is “even more of a motivation” for the band.

Moving forward, Flint said he hopes to find a way to get parents watching the shows beyond standing by the fence. 

“We’re taking baby steps with this whole thing,” he said. “But I think at some point we can spread people out. But we still need to take things one week at a time.”

“It’s a lot different season than normal,” Flint added.

Itinerary for week of Sept 21, 2020

The itinerary for this week’s rehearsals and performances can be viewed and downloaded from this link. It has been posted to the BAND app, and our online calendar has been updated as well.

Please be sure to read the itinerary for information on arrival/pickup times and student uniform guidelines. Any questions about uniform criteria should be directed to the appropriate staff member for their section (Winds – Mr Flint, Percussion – Mr Aungst, Guard – Addison). 

Any Winds student that still needs a white t-shirt can either purchase one directly online here on our website, or you can print out this order form and return it to the DSMA box in the music office along with payment. If you order/pay online, please remember to note the student name AND the size when paying. 

PLEASE NOTE! As of this time, families are NOT allowed in the stadium to watch the performances. If/when this changes, the music office will send out an update.

Itinerary for week of Sept 14, 2020

The itinerary for this week’s rehearsals and performances can be viewed and downloaded from this link. It has been posted to the BAND app, and our online calendar has been updated as well.

Please be sure to read the itinerary for information on arrival/pickup times and student uniform guidelines. Any questions about uniform criteria should be directed to the appropriate staff member for their section (Winds – Mr Flint, Percussion – Mr Aungst, Guard – Addison). 

Any Winds student that still needs a white t-shirt can either purchase one directly online here on our website, or you can print out this order form and return it to the DSMA box in the music office along with payment. If you order/pay online, please remember to note the student name AND the size when paying. 

PLEASE NOTE! As of this time, families are NOT allowed in the stadium to watch the performances. If/when this changes, the music office will send out an update.

Workout with Tom Aungst

The full article can be found on Zildjian’s web site. For direct access to this article,  please click here.

We want to thank Zildjian for putting together this great WORKOUT episode featuring Tom Aungst, who runs through some exercises he does with the Dartmouth HS Drumline.

Not only does it show an awesome video, but it comes with a free PDF download of all the exercises the Dartmouth drumline does.

    

TOM AUNGST is the Director of Percussion at Dartmouth Public Schools in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. His job includes teaching percussion students at all levels of the program, from the beginners starting in 5th grade, to the middle and high school students. Mr. Aungst has been in the Dartmouth school system for the past 24 years. Under Tom’s direction, Dartmouth has participated in the WGI indoor percussion activity since 1998, capturing five World Class Percussion Championships (1998, 1999, 2008, 2009, 2014) and has consistently placed in the top three.

Mr. Aungst has also been involved in the drum corps activity for over 36 years. Tom has recently returned to The Cadets Drum & Bugle Corps as the Caption Head and Arranger for the 2017 season. He was formerly the Caption Head for Carolina Crown in 2015 and 2016. Mr. Aungst got his start in drum corps in the late 70’s by marching with the Reading Buccaneer’s all-age corps, winning two DCA World Championships in 1979 and 1980. In 1981 Tom became involved with The Cadets, first as a member from 1981-1984, then as the Percussion Arranger and Caption Head through 2008 and later returning as a consultant in 2013. While with the corps, Tom was involved with capturing nine championships and seven percussion awards. Mr. Aungst has always remained actively involved in the drum corps activity, recently writing for the Cadets2 corps in 2013, and working with various groups like the Blue Stars, Pacific Crest, Hawthorne Caballeros, and the Connecticut Hurricanes. Tom is a member of The Cadets, Drum Corps International and the WGI Halls of Fame.

Mr. Aungst is a graduate of West Chester University, where he received his Bachelor’s in Music Education and also has a Master’s in Jazz Performance from Rutgers University. Tom is a Vic Firth, Yamaha, Zildjian and Remo artist. He is also a proud father to Alan Aungst and Noah Aungst.

Color guard, band march on with in-person practices

This article appeared in the Dartmouth Week on August 21st by Kate Robinson. To view the original article, please click here.

While most teenagers spent their summer at the beach or escaping quarantine outdoors, kids in Dartmouth High’s marching band and color guard cut their breaks short to get back to practice via Zoom, Google classroom, and — in the past couple of weeks — in person.

On Aug. 20, nearly 50 students broken into groups by instrument could be found playing for three hours in a parking lot behind the high school. The wind instruments practiced in the afternoon, and the percussion and color guard practiced separately in the evening.

Students remain socially distant — six feet apart for regular instruments, and thirteen feet for wind instruments — and masks are required for all except those who need their breath to play.

This is the second week of in-person practice since the pandemic started — but some have been working virtually almost since school let out last March.

“I let them off for two weeks,” said percussion director Tom Aungst with a laugh. “These are really good kids.”

“It’s just nice to be back, because this is what the kids enjoy,” he said. “To get out here and be social, and play and drum and feel the energy, it’s really cool. Even for me.”

Aungst noted that every single one of his students attended his classes since March 13. “I had 100% attendance,” he said. “Indoor percussion competes at world championships — so they understand what it takes.”

“I was really impressed with their dedication and commitment,” he added. “I’m lucky.”

This year is also unusual because new band director Ian Flint took over from longtime director Bill Kingsland this spring.

Flint taught in Dartmouth for nine years and came back to take on the position after five years away. And with four national championships to the school’s name, he said, “We don’t want to lose momentum.”

“Some of the seniors here, I had five years ago,” he said, smiling under his mask. “The program’s evolved even in the five years I’ve been gone…It just keeps getting better.”

As for starting the job during a pandemic, he said, “It was a lot of planning.” But he credits his staff and the kids for pulling off the in-person practices.

“The kids, from day one, they took it super seriously,” he said. “They know if they don’t follow the guidelines, they’re not able to do this.”

“And they love this,” he added. “They take a lot of pride in it.”

As for the teachers, Flint noted, “We were so excited to teach again!”

“We’re lost without being in front of students and teaching them music,” he added. “This is our passion.”

Flint said that with the pandemic, this year will look a lot different. He’s already had to cut the number of hours kids can rehearse each day from nine hours to just three.

“We’ve reduced our rehearsal time to a third of what we would normally do,” he said, adding that due to the changes, they had to cut the show to half its normal runtime.

There will also be no in-person competitions. Instead, bands across the country will compose videos of their performances to send in to a virtual competition.

“We’ll film the show at the stadium, then submit it to the adjudicators,” Flint said. “It’s a little different.”

Senior Sergio Sao Marcos, who has played trombone in the marching band for four years, said that practices are going well.

“It’s just fun,” he said. “I like playing with friends.”

As for giving up part of his summer for the band, he added with a grin, “I don’t mind the heat.” 

The color guard has also started in-person practices in a field behind the school. Director Addison Kaeterle said that the kids are “just excited to be out of the house.”

He noted they also tried out a virtual platform over the summer, with students given level-based assignments to complete and submit videos for feedback, as well as virtual live practices and a weekly zoom catch-up.

“It was very different. I’ve never done such a thing before,” he laughed. “A lot of the kids actually came back a lot stronger with their skillset, because a lot of them took advantage of it.”

Color guard co-captains Ryley Thatcher and Mia Paynton said that everyone is happy to be back. 

“We’ve been in our houses since March now, so it’s good to be back and doing something,” said Paynton. As for the virtual experience, she said, “It’s weird when you’re still practicing but you’re not with everyone you’re used to being around.”

“I love that it feels like a family,” said Thatcher.

Community celebrates longtime music director with retirement parade

This article appeared in the Dartmouth Week on June 20th by Christopher Shea. To view the original article, please click here.

More than 100 cars — many decorated with streamers and signs — streamed through the Dartmouth High School parking lot on Saturday afternoon to celebrate the retirement of longtime Director of Music Bill Kingsland.

Kingsland has led the Dartmouth High School marching band to excellence for over a decade, helping them win multiple national championships, including the fourth consecutive win last year.

“He brought Dartmouth into the national spotlight, this is the least we can do for him,” Dartmouth School Music Association president Russ Benoit said. “Our kids are as successful as they are because of him.”

The rolling parade included past students and their families and co-workers, unbeknown to Kingsland, who said he was very surprised by the event put together by members of the community.

“I had no idea all these cars would come out just for me,” he said. “This was really great!”

According to Benoit, this parade was inspired by the senior graduation parade, as he and other DSMA members liked how people were able to celebrate in a socially distanced way. But online the graduation parade, this would happen around a more central location.

Originally, Kingsland was to be honored at the Spring Pops Concert, but that event was cancelled due to coronavirus concerns.

“As with everything else, it went the way of the dodo bird,” School Committee Member John Nunes said. “But I think this was a great way to send him out.”

As for how they got the outgoing music director to the school on a Saturday, Benoit said Kingsland’s son was responsible for that. 

He said that Kingsland was brought under the pretense that he would be helping his son look at a car, something. Instead, he was treated to, which he, only to see dozens of cars descend upon the school, something Benoit is glad people were able to keep secret.

“It’s a good thing BK’s not on Facebook,” Benoit joked.

As cars went by, many would briefly stop to quickly chat with Kingsland, while some others would play some music from their inst, with one group playing “Billboard March,” a song the group said was Kingsland’s favorite.

“Glad to see you’ve kept up with your practicing,” he joked to the car. 

As for his retirement, Kingsland said he plans to take the summer off, but added that he will continue to keep music in his life. 

Along with a potential job at the Symphony Music Shop on State Road, he said he will continue teaching part-time at UMass Dartmouth, where he has been part of the school’s music department since 1986. 

Kingsland will be replaced by former brass specialist for the district Ian Flint.

“As bad as things are, the schools will be in a good place to start the year this fall,” he said. “He’s a really nice guy.”

Dartmouth High marching band readies for next season despite coronavirus

This article appeared in the May 10 edition of the Standard Times. To view the original article, please click here.

The award-winning Dartmouth High School marching band may be left temporarily silenced due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but its interest among students is not wavering.

With just under 120 students in the program, the town’s director of music and the high school’s band director William Kingsland says while student interest in the band and musical courses remains steady, the upcoming band season is uncertain.

“Obviously, school will not be back in session for the end of the year, so as much course requests as we have and with all the programs looking like we have good signups for the following year in the fall, all of it remains a little uncertain right now. The band does an ‘x’ amount of stuff during the summer and all of that is kind of contingent on the governor’s plans and however this plays out. As much as we’re trying to plan, we really don’t know exactly what dates we’re going to be able to get back to doing what we would do. And even if we do, are we going to be able to perform in large venues with lots of people? So, there’s a lot of unknowns right now,” Kingsland said.

With his retirement planned for the end of the fiscal year, Kingsland also expressed dissatisfaction with leaving so many unanswered questions to his current staff and newly hired band director Ian Flint. He said the challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent shutdowns include the loss of in-person, group practices meant to fine-tune the band’s marching and coordination during events, with over 100 individual moves planned for an average performance.

“It’s kind of frustrating for me because I’m leaving my current staff and the new director of music with more loose ends than I expected,” said Kingsland.

“Interestingly, the kids are still really great and the program looks good for next fall. But, the experience we can offer right now really isn’t what it would be. A lot of being in a band or a string orchestra or a chorus has to do with the interaction that students have with each other and the director and being able to do things together.”

 

Like all Dartmouth High School students, those involved with the band are continuing musical instrument classes online via Zoom, something Kingsland and Assistant Band and Percussion Director Tom Aungst say is helpful in allowing students to learn their instruments individually, but is ultimately ineffective in practicing as an entire band, chorus or orchestra.

Aungst, also a musical instrument teacher at DHS, says for both students and staff alike, it’s about moving forward and planning for the future, despite the restrictions currently in place due to COVID-19.

“We’re just trying to figure out a way to keep things moving for the kids and keep the interest there. We’ve been doing videos, so they’ll post videos of themselves playing. That’s something as far as hearing what they are doing, but as far as the movement, we have to get out there and do it,” Aungst said.

“This weekend we have a Zoom meeting discussing the marching band and we’re going to start to design the show. I think what we’re thinking is, ‘We’re moving ahead.’ I know its day-by-day as far as what the steps (to reopening) are, but we’re going ahead like we’re going to do this.”

Kingsland said that its not just the band’s overall performance that’s effected by the COVID-19 shutdowns. He explained that he’s noticed the emotional toll social distancing has taken on students, particularly those who look at the band and other performance classes as a way to connect with other students.

“I have a few students who are struggling just being at home and by themselves, and you can see it when you talk to them on Zoom, some kids just hardly want to get out of bed. It’s sad and its something the performance classes at the high school have always provided – they always had that connection for the kids to be part of something and be good at something, and that’s really important,” he said.

With Thursday’s news of this year’s Feast of the Blessed Sacrament being cancelled in New Bedford, the marching band’s season kickoff event follows suit. Typically viewed as the first performance that features the entire band – including new freshman students – the cancellation further delays the band’s progress in performing as a unit.

“I think we’re just going to have to be creative in how we do it. It’ll be different for us, but it’s where we’re at and we’re just going to have to pick up the pieces and move on in a positive way,” Aungst said.

DSMA updates and info on affected concerts, events, trips etc.

This season has been an unprecedented one for the DSMA and all of the students in the programs we support. Our kids are the first and foremost thing on all of our minds right now, given recent cancellations and postponements due to COVID-19, along with the uncertainty about the remainder of the school year. Our thoughts are also with our families, many of whom may be faced with uncertainty with work and the health of their loved ones. We’ve come to know so many of you over the years, and we hope that we are all able to pull through this safely.

Given the cancellation of the DSMA meeting this month, and not knowing when we’ll be able to reschedule it, we wanted to send everyone an update on what we know has taken place so far with the music groups in the schools.

Here are the concerts and events that we know right now have been canceled:
The WGI season (no trips to Dayton, OH)
The NESBA indoor season (no NESBA Finals at Dartmouth High School on April 4)
The Band and Orchestra Play-In
Junior Districts

Here’s what we know is (or expect to be) postponed:
The Annual Pops Concert at Dartmouth High School that was set for March 12
The Night of Percussion that was set for April 3
Feature Night on April 8 is expected to be postponed
The Earth Day Parade on April 22 may be postponed

Here is what is still tentatively scheduled:
The middle school trip to Six Flags in May
The Spring concerts at all of our schools

All of our events are at the discretion of the Dartmouth School Department, and we will be following their guidance on rescheduling (or canceling) events with the music department once school resumes. We are also currently working on the plan to refund families who are affected by trip cancellations. Right now we’re in contact with all of the hotels, bus companies, airlines, etc to get our deposits and pre-payments returned. We hope to have information for everyone within the next few weeks, and we thank you for your patience.

This school year started out with many changes due to EEE concerns, and now we’re unfortunately seeing cancellations and postponements due to COVID-19. We are truly hopeful that the ongoing school suspension, and the social distancing it provides, keeps our kids, our extended staff and our families safe.

Having football games and our fall marching band competition start times rescheduled due to EEE resulted in smaller crowds, and subsequently much lower concessions sales (and gate sales at the home show) than most years. Additionally, the cancellations and postponements right now due to the coronavirus, unfortunately, will have a large impact on the DSMA as a whole. This also extends to our fundraiser at Gillette Stadium; our first shift was tentatively scheduled for April 18 and that has been impacted as well with MLS pushing out the start of their season and the statewide ban on public gatherings. 

Going forward, once school is back in session and life has returned to a relatively normal our plan is to come up with some additional ways we can make sure our students and our programs are taken care of for next year. This may include additional fundraisers or special performances, if possible. One thing is for sure – we need to make sure that BK gets the recognition he deserves before he retires for everything he’s done for our students over his long and storied career here in Dartmouth!

As a registered non-profit organization, our bylaws require us to send out nomination papers in April for DSMA executive board and committee positions for the following year. Understandably, there may be far more important issues and concerns still at hand next month. Once we get closer to that timeframe, we will reevaluate our calendar and make an appropriate decision that is best for everyone. Likewise with the scholarship applications for our qualifying seniors – our scholarship committee is already reviewing how they can ensure our kids are taken care of, no matter what. Once school resumes, we’ll be able to take a better look along with the music staff at what needs to be done to make up for lost concerts & events, and hopefully, many of the tentative events will still be able to go on or be rescheduled.

Our students are amazing. There’s no other way to put it. They practice at home, show up to long rehearsals at school, juggle music classes with all of their other studies, many of them take lessons with outside instructors or take part in other performance groups… they never cease to impress our teachers, staff, parents, and volunteers with how hard they work. As parent volunteers, it’s always a joy to watch our kids start the year and grow as performers and as people throughout the season. While this year may not be ending in the way many of them desired, we truly hope that in the not-so-distant future, many of our students look back on this year fondly and remember the fun they had, the friendships they made, and the adventures they shared.

If you have questions, concerns, or ideas – we want to hear from you. Please feel free to contact any of us and we would love to speak with you about the ways that we can continue to support the music and performing arts programs here in Dartmouth during this unprecedented time. And most importantly – be well, and stay safe.

Gratefully,

The Dartmouth School Music Association Executive Board

UPDATES ON CANCELLATIONS/POSTPONEMENTS DUE TO COVID-19 (March 13, 2020)

We have been receiving a lot of questions about upcoming events, concerts, competitions, etc. that involve the music programs so we wanted to post an update here for everyone. The following is what we know about how things stand for our various school music groups:

-The WGI season has been cancelled, so our varsity colorguard and our indoor percussion group will not be travelling to Dayton, OH.
-The NESBA season has been cancelled, so both of our color guards as well as our indoor percussion group will not be competing for the remainder of this year. This means we will also not be hosting NESBA Finals at Dartmouth High School in April, as we normally do.
-The Annual Pops Concert at Dartmouth High School, featuring our choruses, orchestra, jazz band and concert band, has been postponed indefinitely. As of right now, there is no revised date scheduled.
-The Band and Orchestra Play-In has been cancelled.
-Junior Districts has been cancelled.
-Our annual Night of Percussion is tentatively scheduled for it’s original date of April 3, however that may change based on conditions leading up to the event.
-Feature Night on April 8 is tentatively scheduled to go on as planned (subject to change).
-The Earth Day Parade on April 22 is tentatively scheduled to go on as planned (subject to change).
-The middle school trip to Six Flags is currently still planned to go on, as it is scheduled for late May. Should things change between now and then, we will be sure to update everyone.
-The Spring concerts at all of our schools are still planned to go on as planned, but are subject to change should conditions dictate.

For families affected by cancellations involving trips, we will have info on refunds/credits within the next few weeks, as we are working with all of the vendors, hotels, travel companies, airlines, etc. to recover deposits and funds that were pre-paid to arrange travel or lodging.

Next week’s scheduled DSMA meeting may need to be postponed due the suspension of all after-school activities.

Throughout all of this, our kids have been AMAZING. They are disappointed and upset, and rightfully so. We are doing everything we can to support them and recognize all of the hard work they’ve put into practice, rehearsals, balancing music with schoolwork… we are very lucky to have such wonderful students to support, and a caring music staff that is dedicated to their students.

We will provide more info and updates to families as it comes in. THANK YOU to everyone who has supported us, and our students, during this unprecedented time.

Dartmouth band wins 4th consecutive national championship

This article originally appeared in the November 11, 2019 edition of the Standard Times. To read the original article, please click here. 

It was a perfect night.

The Dartmouth High School Marching Band won its fourth consecutive national championships in the U.S. Band Association’s Open Group V competition Saturday night at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

They tied for the highest score ever recorded by any band in the circuit with a score of 98.575, set in 2008.

And they did it at their band director, Bill Kingsland’s, final show as he is retiring in June.

Russ Benoit, president of Dartmouth School Music Association, the band’s support group, was at the championships and said there were some anxious moments until the final scores were read. They knew Dartmouth did well. They didn’t know how well.

Southington, Ct., High School came in second with a score of 95.375; followed by Passaic, N.J., High School, 95.175; and Trumbull, Ct., High School, 95.150, according to the Youth Education in the Arts website.

“When they announced the second place winners, we knew the kids had won,” Benoit said. “When they said, 98 (DHS’s final score of 98.575), we were completely blown away with how high the score was.”

Benoit’s son Jacob, an eighth grader, is in band’s drum line. His daughter was in the band and is now going to college.

“It’s such an honor to see it. We know how hard they work,” he said. “It was such a wonderful evening.”

Dartmouth parents poured out of the stands and hugged and celebrated with their children, he said. Later, they carried the huge trophy to bus.

“It was truly an amazing sight,” he said.

The fact that it was Kingsland’s last show was on on everyone’s mind, Benoit said. “They wanted to win it for ‘BK.’ (Kingsland’s nickname). They wanted to do it for him,” Benoit said.

“They wanted to show him how much love and respect they have for him by putting on the best show possible.”

The name of this year’s show was “The Witching Hour,” he said.

The band and color guard enjoyed some rest and relaxation Sunday and received a hero’s welcome with an escort by the police and fire departments with sirens blaring from Interstate 195 where they met the buses to Dartmouth High School.

On Monday, they marched in New Bedford’s Veterans Day Parade.

“That will be the last one for me,” Kingsland said of the U.S. Bands competition when he spoke with a reporter outside New Bedford’s main library following Monday’s parade. “It was good, really good. Good for the kids, good for the town.”

The band had to fight through the cold Saturday night on the field of MetLife Stadium and remain focused on their music and routines, he said. He offered special thanks to Tom Aungst, Mike Rayner, Tyler Kingsland, his son, and Addison Kaeterle, for their help this year.