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It was a bang-up year for BHS bands

The program has thrived under Stephanie Dupuis’ dynamic baton.

Trombones sing out a leather-jacketed, muscle-bound bass line. Bright trumpets jump with the hip-swinging, sashaying music of “Birdland.”

The jazz band is in top form.

The final Bainbridge High School band concert of the year culminated in toe-tapping music played with steady confidence from the heart.

More than learning just music, the band program teaches life.

“We use music to teach life skills. Music is just a vehicle,” said Stephanie Dupuis, director of band at Bainbridge High School.

“These kids won’t play instruments for the rest of their life. I give them skills they can apply to all other aspects of life,” said Dupuis, known to her students as “L.J.”

In its seven years under Dupuis’ direction, the Bainbridge High School band program and its members have come a long way.

The program has grown from 37 students to 188 this year, and 200 next year – nearly 15 percent of the student body.

Playing alto sax in both jazz band and wind ensemble, senior Nicolle Perisho says that, compared to the prim styles of other conductors she’s seen at competition, Dupuis is a dynamo.

“L.J.’s waving, dancing, going off the side. She was everywhere. I think the excitement is from her.”

The band program’s excellence is well known. BHS ensembles compete every other year in the Heritage Band Festival in Anaheim, Calif. At nationals last year, the wind ensemble placed first and the jazz band earned second place.

More than the music prizes, Dupuis is proud of the Spirit of Anaheim Award BHS received for best representing its state and community out of a field of 64.

“I don’t focus on the competitions, but when you have a quality program, successes occur ‘without effort,’” she said.

Yet Dupuis is quick to point out that her students do, in fact, work very hard.

“For a program to reach a level of success, it needs direction not just from the director but from the kids,” she said. “(They) need to recruit respect from peers and develop consistency in all areas of life.”

Dupuis exhorts her students to desire, take action and get results.

“Students motivate each other to try the best they can be as individuals – not competitively,” Dupuis said. “The focus is trying to do the best you can, and the rest falls in place.”

Contrary to the myth that taking band “doesn’t look good on their transcript,” Dupuis points to the many senior band members going to Ivy League schools in the fall, like wind ensemble tuba player Amy Paeth, whose scholarship is paying her tuition at Princeton.

Music requires a lot of focus and develops self-discipline, perseverance and leadership.

Leaders of each section of the band are responsible their section being on-time for every rehearsal. Section leaders also call sectionals, extra rehearsals for each instrument section, to get their part cohesive and true.

Student officers meet weekly to make sure the program is running smoothly.

“Band has made me a better leader, taking on a more active leader role in encouraging students to participate and support peers,” said jazz band pianist Annika Oechsli, who also plays clarinet and trumpet.

Oechsli, who received the Louis Armstrong Award for outstanding senior jazz student – an honor voted on by her peers – is planning to study music education at the University of Denver, and will be helping with marching band camp this summer.

In addition to the performing groups – jazz band, percussion ensemble, and three concert bands, which double as the basketball band and marching band – there are myriad smaller ensembles, entirely student run.

This year, those small ensembles sent more students to the state music contest than any other on the Peninsula.

Dupuis points to the Clarinet Choir, run this year by seniors Katrina Peterson and Jen Chapman.

“They motivated the group and made it to State; it was a beautiful moment,” she said.

Community support has also been an important part of the band program’s success. The band fund-raiser this year raised $93,000 for instruments, with the community contributing a some $190,000 to band in the last five years.

The year-end concert ranked as the best this year, Dupuis says.

“We finally had the resources we needed. (The students) had the instruments to practice and they did! They did the work.

“The seniors were recognized and they played their hearts out.”

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