Music programs prep for Disney

‘Give students a chance to succeed and they will’

MUNCY — When asked his preference for a feature in the Education section of the Sun-Gazette, Muncy Junior Senior High School principal Tim Welliver answered that there were many positive things going on in the schools. “But,” he said, “Our band and chorus program, under the direction of Mike Buck, has really grown. What about that?”

What about that, indeed. It’s worth featuring a program that began with five band members and six choral students four years ago and now boasts 62 marching band members, 54 concert band participants, 19 jazz band and 45 chorus members. That’s almost a 200 percent growth each year, which means good things must be happening here.

According to Buck, who began teaching in the district in 2015, change and growth came with the cooperation of everyone in this school of 479 students, grades seven through 12.

“We want well-rounded students; we don’t want them to have to choose between activities they’re interested in. So we aren’t in competition with things like athletics; we work together,” Buck said.

One aspect of working together involves options and flexibility for classes, rehearsals and lessons. These choices can encompass in-school, after-school, evening as well as a choice of which band and choral groups to participate in: Jazz, marching and concert bands. Choral and acapella groups. And varied music — anything from Queen to choral standards to notations from any century.

Observing Buck’s band and chorus rehearsals, it’s obvious that the program growth also has something to do with Buck himself. Throughout practice, interjections like, “very nice,” “it’s good, this is practice,” “excellent tone, but check your beats” are heard often. He slips lessons into rehearsals, like a quick tale of Georges Bizet, the 19th century French composer of the opera “Carmen,” whose music they are playing.

“The critics panned Carmen when it was first performed, but look — here we are playing it today,” Buck tells his students. And he smiles — often.

Besides his general music classes and band and chorus rehearsals, Buck also teaches a music technology class.

Buck describes his teaching philosophy this way: “Give kids an opportunity to succeed, and they will.” He is quick to praise their participation in many different activities. “They’re amazing, really — so motivated.”

Music abounds in the Muncy schools with practice and performances in Christmas and spring concerts; county and district bands; football games; parades; band camp and this year — a trip to Disney World where they will perform and participate in workshops.

“Disney is possible because of our great Muncy Music Association,” Buck said. “They do all kinds of fund-raising and help in so many ways. We’re actually awaiting delivery of a trailer which is possible because of donations and Association fund-raising.”

The association is made up of parents and other supportive community members.

Buck repeatedly mentions all those who contribute to the program, “who,” he remarked, “are also very dedicated to the music program in Muncy.” He especially noted Sherrie Doebler, Katie McGuire, Amanda Hogan, Makaela Brown and Jessica Kerstetter.

At present, band and chorus are rehearsing for their spring concert, which includes performing members in grades fourth through 12. And, of course, preparing for Disney.

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