But Durst was most excited to tell about the introduction of the SmartMusic software into his teaching system. Each student has an online account that allows him or her to practice at home and get instant feedback. Durst can then access this feedback and use it to give more specialized instruction to his students. “[It] gives each kid a private tutor,” he explained. Eagle Point is the first high school in southern Oregon to use the SmartMusic software.
Among others, Durst highlighted two multi-talented musicians that have developed out of his program. He spoke of Michael Bradley-Smith and his knack for the tuba. Despite Bradley-Smith’s short experience with the instrument, Durst said, “he’s been ripping it.” As a senior, this is Bradley-Smith’s fourth year with the marching band where previously he played the tenor saxophone. He also enjoys playing jazz trombone and guitar, and singing in the jazz choir. Outside of music, Bradley-Smith has been cast as Professor Harold Hill in the EPHS theater production of Music Man. The lead role is only his second part in any of the school’s plays. “[I’m] very proud they let me do it,” he said.
After high school, Michael Bradley-Smith intends to play music for the Marines, citing the challenging nature of the audition as his primary motivation. He described it as “something I could be very proud of if I made it.”
Rachel Gima is another outstanding student musician. Currently a junior, Gima has been playing the flute since the 4th grade, and is a flutist in the honors band. As the drum major, she also spends considerable time perched atop a ladder to conduct the marching band at the Eagle Point football games. For the second time, Gima has won entrance into the Western International Band Clinic to be held in Seattle. The audition process considers honors band students from across six states, and involves recording a classical solo piece. She will have the opportunity to perform original music composed by five different conductors as part of a 460 piece band. On top of her musical pursuits, Gima participates in the Skills USA and Mathletes competitions, and is a member of the Honor Society. When asked for her feelings about her school’s band, she described the group as “incredible people,” saying “they’re my best friends.”
Gima plans to attend Harvard University where she will, of course, continue to play the flute. Her goals are to double major in biology and women’s studies, and eventually to graduate from medical school and become an obstetrician.
Durst clearly likes teaching his band, and said he especially enjoys the chance to “show the community that we’re a part of it.” No one should expect any slower progress for Eagle Point’s marching band in the future. According to Durst, “we’re going full steam ahead.”
By Michael Stephens
For the Independent