The Canby High School band program capped an unprecedentedly successful spring campaign with some shiny new hardware this month, capturing second at the OSAA Band/Orchesta State Championships and fourth at the Oregon Music Education Association State Jazz Championships.
Both results were the highest in school history. In fact, this year marked only the second time the Canby High School band had even qualified for the OSAA state competition. Canby’s first trip to states was last year, where the concert band finished 17th.
“It was the second year that we qualified and we took second place,” band director Nick Luchterhand told the Current. “We’ve seen huge growth, huge growth.”
Canby’s wind ensemble and jazz band also took first place in their respective competitions at the Northwest Oregon Conference league championships, and won the Northwest Invitational Concert Band Contest at Clackamas Community College — all firsts for the program.
“It’s a very special group this year,” Luchterhand said. “There were a lot of firsts. And competition is not everything, but it’s a tangible mark of success, and a tangible mark that these kids are getting a quality music education, which is the most important thing to me.”
The state championship performance and second-place finish were especially meaningful for Luchterhand, achieving a goal he’d held since before he first took the reins of the school band program seven years ago.
“I was a student at Canby High School, and I decided I wanted to be not just a band director, but the band director at Canby High School when I was 17 or 18 years old,” he recalled.
“We never made it to states, and it’s honestly been my life goal to be the band director at this school and bring them to the state championships. To not only see them go but place second, it’s a dream come true. And I’m just super proud of these kids. They worked really hard. It’s a great end to a great year.”
Luchterhand attributes the band’s success to the members’ hard work, study and camaraderie they’ve built over the years and his own continued growth as a director. Last year’s trip to states taught them much, and this year, he made a concerted effort to bring in guest conductors to share their unique talents with the band.
“Once you get to the state level, you start to understand what it takes what it takes to compete, what that degree of musicality sounds like,” he explained. “I think we learned a lot from hearing the other bands, talking with the other directors.
“And I know I learned a tremendous amount from that experience. I listened to every judge, and we have been actively seeking to apply those lessons and everything that we learned.”
While many high school choirs, bands and orchestras shrank in the wake of the pandemic, losing an average of 50% of their members, Canby’s music programs have bucked those trends, continuing to see strong growth.
Last year’s freshman band class was the largest Luchterhand has ever seen, and his overall program has grown to 130 students, up from 60 when he first returned to Canby High.
“The thing I attribute that to is the community, making it possible to build those relationships with our students and provide opportunities for artistic expression,” he said. “And we have excellent middle school theater programs at Baker Prairie and Ninety-One School. A good high school program does not exist without that.”
Canby’s second place-winning set at the OSAA Band/Orchestra State Championships on May 10-13 at Oregon State University featured “Pas Redoublé” by Camille Saint-Saens, “Keep Silence” by David Gillingham and “Culloden, Movement III” by Julie Giroux.
The wind ensemble claimed second place with a total score of 309, finishing behind 5A champion West Albany (331) and ahead of Parkrose (288), Putnam (287) and McKay (283).
In the OEMA State Jazz Championships May 19 and 20 at Mount Hood Community College, Canby presented “A Few Good Men” by Gordon Goodwin, “Angel Eyes” by Allan Horney, and “Tell Me a Bedtime Story” and “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue,” both arranged by Alan Baylock.
The performance featured solos by Canby’s own Lucas Hartshorn, Matt Solem, Zack Woodruff, Joe Patton, Cadenza Billingslea and Brayden Boley. Luchterhand said the pieces for both sets were carefully selected based on his own study of literature and what he felt would best complement the strengths of his musicians.
The band’s success in state competitions is a fitting coda to what has been a remarkable year for Canby in the musical and performing arts. The Canby dance team returned to form in March, bringing home not one but two state titles on Saint Patrick’s Day, bringing their total to seven since 2015.
And, not to be outdone, the Canby concert choir won their first-ever state championship just a couple of weeks ago after finishing second three times since 2007.
Though the concert and competition season is largely over, there are still a couple more chances to see Canby’s band perform live. Pursuant to tradition, they will be participating in the Starlight Parade in downtown Portland on June 3, and on June 4, the jazz band will perform at the Charbonneau Golf Club (tickets required).
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