Sandpoint High bands bring home the gold

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(Courtesy photo) Sandpoint High School’s jazz and symphonic bands brought home a total of six awards recently from the San Francisco Heritage Festival — three trophies, two plaques and an individual award.

SANDPOINT — The Sandpoint High School jazz and symphonic bands cleaned house in competition at the San Francisco Heritage Festival recently.

"They pretty much won all the awards you can win, except for second and third place," said band director Aaron Gordon. "They did really well."

Between the jazz and symphonic bands, Sandpoint took home a total of six awards — three trophies, two plaques and one individual award. 

The symphonic band received 89.5 points, therefore earning a silver plaque, and the jazz band scored 94, earning a gold plaque. Gordon said scoring a 94 is challenging, musically, to have that level of perfection.

The Sandpoint bands took first in the competition for their combined score, earning them a top trophy with the "Sweepstakes Award." The jazz band took home the trophy for receiving the highest overall score in the competition. The third trophy was the "Adjudicator's Award," which is given to the band who scores a 94 or higher, as well as is chosen as the most outstanding band in the competition. This trophy went to the jazz band as well.

SHS junior Emily Shveyda took home the "Maestro Award" — out of all of those who participated, she was the only instrumentalist recognized on an individual level, Gordon said.

While they likely will not attend, the jazz band was invited to the Festival of Gold where bands that won gold plaques from Heritage Festivals across the country, compete against each other, said Coleman Vaughn, a sophomore at Forrest Bird Charter School and oboe player in the SHS symphonic band. 

"It's really intense because they are all really good bands," Vaughn said.

Sandpoint bands have received the Festival of Gold award for the past eight years, Gordon said.

Vaughn said they played three different pieces of music at the festival. A march is required for the first piece, so they played "St. Petersburg March. The second piece balances it out by playing a slower piece, so they played "Our Yesterdays Lengthen Like Shadows," which Vaughn said is about two people who grew up together, following the course of their life, and one note is held constant through the entire piece.

"I had a solo in that piece, so I was kind of nervous about it," Vaughn said.

Gordon said the third piece is usually "your choice," so he typically likes to pick something a bit faster for the students to play.

"We played three contrasting pieces, and the pieces I chose this year were pretty difficult," Gordon said. "Two of them were definitely college-level pieces — they were pretty tough."

The 37 Sandpoint students competed against about 25 other teams from places like Canada, Washington, Oregon, California, Texas and Utah, Gordon said.

The judges have a rubric they go by with three main criteria, Gordon said, including tone, rhythmic accuracy and useful interpretation. Tone is how good they sound and if they have characteristic tone quality; rhythmic accuracy is whether they play the notes at the right time and articulation of the notes; and useful interpretation is where the students are judged not only by playing the notes at the right time, but add some meaning, shaping and motion to them, Gordon said. Without useful interpretation, he said, it would sound as if a computer was playing the notes.

The SHS bands go on a big trip every other year. Gordon said it allows them time to do fundraising, which they do on their own. Over the years, the Sandpoint band has gone to Seattle a few times, and this year they decided to go to either Colorado or San Francisco. Vaughn said they decided on San Francisco because there is a lot of different things to do there.

The students headed to San Francisco on March 30 and returned April 2. While they were there, besides winning a bunch of awards, they visited places like Alcatraz, Great America, Fisherman's Wharf and Chinatown, Vaughn said. While he is not big on roller coasters, Vaughn said all the places they visited were a lot of fun, and he especially like the cultural and historical aspects of places like Chinatown and Alcatraz.

Being in a different school than the rest of the band, Vaughn said he was pretty nervous at first.

"Then when I got there, I started being more excited and less nervous as I got to know people," Vaughn said. "... For the competition portion, overall, I was pretty excited."

For Gordon, in his eleventh year as the band director at SHS, he said it is always a pleasure to see the students progress and be recognized for their hard work.

"It's always awesome to have that reward of working hard in the form of a great performance, but it's also nice to be recognized by fellow musicians, and confirms that a little town like Sandpoint is doing some awesome stuff," Gordon said.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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