If you’re not familiar with the Leesville Band program, you’re missing out. Led by Alyssa Montgomery, currently in her seventh year as the director of the program, all three bands are impressively successful in their own right. Each has achieved Superior-level performances (Superior being the highest rating possible) in their respective grades at the NCBA Music Performance Adjudication. It’s tough to miss the numerous awards and trophies that line the back wall of the band room, a testament to the skill of every band.
However, the program underwent some changes for the 2019-2020 school year. Previously, there have been three bands– the Symphonic Band, “Leesville’s premier audition-only band”, is the foremost band in the school– they’re the people that play at football games and most other school events. The Concert Band is right behind them in terms of performance leve l– no marching like Symphonic, but a high difficulty in terms of music. Behind them, prior to this year, was the Ninth Grade Band. Made up entirely of freshmen, it’s for those who audition for Symphonic Band and don’t make it or don’t audition at all. Any other grade would have been placed into Concert Band if that happened before this year. Ms. Montgomery has recently decided to change this system up a bit, and here’s where it gets a little complicated.
Ninth Grade Band is now known as Intermediate — the band website describes it as an “instrumental ensemble designed to help bridge the gap between middle school and high school band” If a rising freshman, Ninth Grade Band, or Concert Band student chose not to audition at the end of the 18-19 school year, they’d be placed in Intermediate. If they did audition, depending on how well they did, they could be placed in any of the three bands. This makes it so Concert Band is, for the first time in the band’s history, an audition-only band. These changes come because Montgomery “found that there was a lot of varying levels– and we liked having the Ninth Grade Band… but we were finding more and more that there was a lot of diversity in skill level of a ninth grade student.”
So far, the changes seem to be positive — “Concert Band seems to be doing really, really well… and we’re able to keep moving forward.” As long as this continues, both Montgomery and the band program will benefit from these changes.