Classes carried on as usual, but melodies and harmonies could be faintly heard around the halls of Montezuma-Cortez High School last Wednesday. M-CHS, like it has for at least 20 years, hosted the Southwestern Large Group Festival, sanctioned by the Colorado High School Activities Association. The festival has both instrumental and choral divisions.
This year Cortez, Durango, Bayfield, Ignacio, Pagosa Springs and Farmington schools took part. All were high school groups except for Cortez Middle School, Durango’s Escalante Middle School and Farmington’s Heights Middle School.
Each group performed before a panel of three judges, who scored them from 1 (superior) to 5 (unprepared), based on 14 indicators such as tonal quality, note accuracy, blend and posture. The instrumental judges were Gary Ambrosier, Paul Schneider, Bill Wilkinson and Del Brickley, while Trent Ellis, Steve Meininger, and Sally and Robert Bartalot served as choral judges.
The groups also competed in a separate category, called sight-reading, before a single judge. Sight-reading tests how quickly a group can pick up an unfamiliar piece on the fly.
“Each band and director have six minutes to look over a score, of appropriate difficulty. Then they have to play through it as best they can for the judge,” said M-CHS Band Director Rodney Ritthaler.
The M-CHS Symphonic Winds Band — made up of woodwinds and brass, no strings — finished with an overall score of 1, with a 2 (excellent) from the sight-reading judge.
CMS sent two groups: its seventh- and eighth-grade bands. The eighth-graders received 2’s in both areas — the three-judge panel and sight reading — and the seventh graders received an overall score of 2, but achieved a 1 on sight reading.
Under the direction of Marla Sitton, the M-CHS Concert Choir received 3’s (good) in both categories. Pagosa Springs High School took top honors among choral groups with 1’s across the board, barely edging out the M-CHS Chamber Choir, which got 1’s from the three-judge panel and a 2 for sight reading. Chamber Choir is audition-only, while Concert Choir is open to all.
Groups receiving straight 1’s in regional competition may be invited to participate in a Denver gala, Sitton said.
Two performances by Cortez’s young musicians are upcoming. On Monday, May 6, all middle and high school bands are playing together at a concert in the M-CHS gymnasium at 7 p.m. — Ritthaler estimated 300 students total.
Tuesday, May 14, at 7 p.m. in the school auditorium, is the Senior Appreciation Concert for departing M-CHS students.
“It’s a final farewell type thing, to recognize their time and dedication to the band over four years,” Ritthaler said.
Both events are free and open to the public.