Photos by Rome City Schools
The Seven Hills was alive with music during a sneak peek of the Rome Bands’ annual Christmas Concert. Chad Hannah, Director of Bands for Rome City Schools, opened the RHS Theater doors early to give sixth-grade band students a glimpse of what was to come if they stayed with band through middle school and beyond.
Beginning band students from East Central, Elm Street, North Heights, West Central and West End filled the center section of the theater in anticipation as members of Rome’s seventh, eighth and high school bands prepared to perform eight Christmas-themed concert pieces for them. However, the show did not start until Dr. Eric Holland, Rome High’s Principal, welcomed them all in true Wolves fashion.
“I woke up this morning super-duper excited because Mr. Hannah told me that we had a group of talented children coming over to hear our band,” Dr. Holland said. “You are going to be a part of the baddest band in the land, and they are our Sound of the Seven Hills. We are all thrilled about having you here today to meet with some of our band members and see more of what our music program has to offer you.”
Afterwards, Dr. Holland led the students in his famous hand-clapping custom, one where he asks visitors to give three claps for everyone who helped to put the production together for them that day.
“Eighty-nine percent of students who attend Rome High School participate in extracurricular activities, so we hope that you continue to find programs that will help you when you transition to middle and high school,” Dr. Holland said.
Now that they were primed for a great show, Rome Middle’s seventh and eighth grade bands gave spirited renditions of popular Christmas tunes. “This is our seventh grade band and they have been playing about a year longer than you all have,” said Skip Stubblefield, the director of the seventh grade band. “A year seems like a long time, but you will be on this stage before you know it. When we get you to seventh grade band, we will pick up right where you left off in beginning band.”
Tab Brown, eighth grade band director, echoed Stubblefield when introducing the eighth graders who played a cheerful number titled “The Sounds of Christmas” for the wide-eyed crowd. “I am excited that you decided to become a part of such a wonderful band program. The purpose of today is for you all to see what we do in middle school and in high school. We are really looking forward to working with you guys in the future,” Brown smiled when addressing the audience.
When the time came to showcase Rome High’s Concert Band, Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble, David Warren, Rome High band director, took the opportunity to create a bond between his fledgling students and the seasoned musicians on stage. “The band on stage now, our Concert Band, is made up entirely of ninth grade students,” Warren explained. “And how many of you are from Elm Street?” Warren asked his group on stage.
His Elm Street ninth graders raised their hands and were met with applause, and the same happened after Warren asked each of his students which elementary school they attended. The beginning band students could then see themselves in their older counterparts; they were inspired by what was right in front of their faces and filling their ears. In that moment, all 600 of the students who participate in Rome City Schools’ Band program shared the togetherness and pride in their school which has become so common with school programs system wide.
“We want to be certain that our students who are just getting started on their instruments have an opportunity to see how they fit into our vision for the bands,” said Hannah, “and we want to create special memories for them early-on. Because they are not developed enough to play in a concert until our second semester, it helps them to see what they can accomplish if they continue to practice and learn their instruments. We were so fortunate to have the administrators from our elementary schools work with us to get them over to the high school for a concert and let them see what a wonderful organization and family we have in Rome Bands.”
Hannah had a special treat for one of his beginning band members that she will remember for a lifetime. “You see this?” Hannah said holding up a baton he uses to give music cues to his Wind Ensemble and to keep them all in time. “His name is George and I don’t often give him up to my students. But today is special. Lily, can you come up and join me on stage?”
Lily Lary, a West End band student, shuffled down the row and up the steps to the stage where Hannah met her and placed George in her hand. “If you lift him up, the band raises their horns, see?” Hannah smiled. Little Lily raised the baton, and the high school students popped to attention, horns at the ready position and out of their instruments came “Sleigh Ride” a holiday music mainstay. Lily conducted the entire number, and the band never missed a beat under her direction.
She will treasure the moment, and that is what Hannah intended as he sat in the rear of the stage and watched with the widest grin the world has ever seen.
“I loved getting to see what I get to do in the future with the band,” said Lily. “I was very nervous while I was directing the band because there were a lot of people. Mr. Hannah surprised me, but it was a lot of fun.”
Merry Christmas and Go Wolves!