Valley students shine as part of Cordova High band

Posted 2/16/19

A special opportunity at Cordova High School is allowing students from Valley Jr. High School to participate in beginner band and marching band.Cordova High Band Director Sara Lipscomb has been …

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Valley students shine as part of Cordova High band


A special opportunity at Cordova High School is allowing students from Valley Jr. High School to participate in beginner band and marching band.

Cordova High Band Director Sara Lipscomb has been visiting Valley Jr. High for the past three years to work with the school's sixth grade students to help them prepare for advanced band opportunities.

Each day, seventh and eighth grade students from Valley are also bused to Cordova High School for band classes, and the students even have an opportunity to participate in the school's marching band during football season.   

Students from neighboring Bankhead Middle School are also afforded the same opportunities.

Prior to Valley students being able to work with Lipscomb, they didn't have any band knowledge until they entered high school, which would make for a difficult transition if they wanted to pursue music.

"By the time you hit ninth grade, that should be your fourth year," Lipscomb said. "We have several students that had to play catch up, and they've done very well. But I know those kids would have appreciated having that opportunity."

One of those students is Christian Williams. Now a senior, Williams once attended Valley and came to Cordova in the ninth grade trying to learn music for the first time.  

"I came in as a ninth grader for band camp and didn't know anything, and I was getting told by seventh and eighth graders how to do what I was doing, and they were two years younger than me. It was terrifying," Williams said.

Beginner band wasn't offered when he went to school at Valley, making it harder for him to learn basics.

"You have to learn the mechanics of the instrument. You just have to learn to work it. You can't just pick up an instrument and create music," Lipscomb said. "It requires training on what fingers to place on what keys and muscle memory. There's so much to it."

Lipscomb equated not having beginner band to a calculus student not knowing algebra.

Williams said the framework would have been very beneficial.

"I would have at least known the fundamentals of music and how it worked, but I had to start from the basics. It was a big learning curve," he said.

Williams now mentors younger band members like eighth grader Rook Robinson and seventh grader Allie Hramec. Both students are bused daily from Valley to practice band at Cordova High. They also took beginner band with Lipscomb in a classroom at Valley that was set aside for band lessons.

"It's only my second year coming here, and I'm third chair trumpet," Robinson said of his quick progression in band.  

"If you start younger, you have more experience," Hramec said, who plays trombone. "You can learn more when you're older."

Beginner band is taught by Lipscomb to roughly 20 students at Valley and 20 students at Bankhead, and of Cordova's nearly 90 band students, an estimated 40 to 50 are former Valley students.

Lipscomb said she can't take credit for the agreements with Valley and Bankhead for band opportunities, because administrators were already planning to start beginner band when she became band director three years ago. She said Cordova High Principal Kathy Vintson, Valley Jr. High Principal Jody Harrison and Bankhead Middle School Principal Amber Freeman have all been great to coordinate the logistics of getting all students into one place for marching band classes as well.

She also credited the bus drivers who transport the students. 

"Everybody has come together to make it happen," she said. "I think not having many fine arts opportunities is what drives them to want to do that." 

Williams said he is thankful his fellow peers now have an opportunity to grasp concepts early, and he's happy to be part of Cordova's growing music program.

"My band experience here has been something I never want to leave behind," he said. "People look at the band and think it's just a bunch of people playing music, but it's a lot more than that. It's just a really great experience for anybody."