Canby High School Band Scores Big

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Community: Canby High School
Story and Photos by Tyler Francke, Contributing Writer

The Canby High School Band Peforms

The Canby High School band program capped an unprecedentedly successful spring campaign with some shiny new hardware this year, bringing home second place at the OSAA Band/Orchestra State Championships and placing fourth at the Oregon Music Education Association State Jazz Championships.

Both results were the highest in school history. In fact, this year marked only the second time the Canby High School band had even qualified for the OSAA state competition. Canby’s first trip to states was last year, where the concert band finished 17th.

“It was the second year that we qualified and we took second place,” band director Nick Luchterhand says. “We’ve seen huge growth, huge growth.”

Canby’s wind ensemble and jazz band also took first place in their respective competitions at the Northwest Oregon Conference league championships, and won the Northwest Invitational Concert Band Contest at Clackamas Community College — all firsts for the program.

“It’s a very special group this year,” Nick says. “There were a lot of firsts. And competition is not everything, but it’s a tangible mark of success, and a tangible mark that these kids are getting a quality music education, which is the most important thing to me.”

The state championship performance and second-place finish were especially meaningful for Nick, achieving a goal he’d held since before he first took the reins of the school band program seven years ago.

“I was a student at Canby High School, and I decided I wanted to be not just a band director, but the band director at Canby High School New-Look Cougs“>Canby High School when I was 17 or 18 years old,” he recalls.

“We never made it to states, and it’s honestly been my life goal to be the band director at this school and bring them to the state championships. To not only see them go but place second, it’s a dream come true. And I’m just super proud of these kids. They worked really hard. It’s a great end to a great year.”

He attributes the band’s success to the members’ hard work, study and camaraderie they’ve built over the years and his own continued growth as a director. Last year’s trip to states taught them much, and this year, he made a concerted effort to bring in guest conductors to share their unique talents with the band.

“Once you get to the state level, you start to understand what it takes, what it takes to compete, what that degree of musicality sounds like,” he explains. “I think we learned a lot from hearing the other bands, talking with the other directors.

“And I know I learned a tremendous amount from that experience. I listened to every judge, and we have been actively seeking to apply those lessons and everything that we learned.”

While many high school choirs, bands and orchestras shrank in the wake of the pandemic, losing an average of 50% of their members, Canby’s music programs have bucked those trends, continuing to see strong growth.

Last year’s freshman band class was the largest Nick has ever seen, and his overall program has grown to 130 students, up from 60 when he first returned to Canby High.

“The thing I attribute that to is the community, making it possible to build those relationships with our students and provide opportunities for artistic expression,” he says. “And we have excellent middle school theater programs at Baker Prairie and Ninety-One School. A good high school program does not exist without that.”

Canby’s second place-winning set at the OSAA Band/Orchestra State Championships on May 10-13 at Oregon State University featured “Pas Redoublé” by Camille Saint-Saens, “Keep Silence” by David Gillingham and “Culloden, Movement III” by Julie Giroux.

The wind ensemble claimed second place with a total score of 309, finishing behind 5A champion West Albany (331) and ahead of Parkrose (288), Putnam (287) and McKay (283).

In the OEMA State Jazz Championships May 19 and 20 at Mount Hood Community College, Canby presented “A Few Good Men” by Gordon Goodwin, “Angel Eyes” by Allan Horney, and “Tell Me a Bedtime Story” and “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue,” both arranged by Alan Baylock.

The performance featured solos by Canby’s own Lucas Hartshorn, Matt Solem, Zack Woodruff, Joe Patton, Cadenza Billingslea and Brayden Boley. Luchterhand said the pieces for both sets were carefully selected based on his own study of literature and what he felt would best complement the strengths of his musicians.