While some high school directors might be interested in creating an exclusive organization for elite musicians within the student body, Terry Dahlgren’s main mission is to have as many people involved as possible.
“That’s the goal: to spread the music,” said Dahlgren, who has been the band director at both Seaside High School and Broadway Middle School for 18 years.
Thanks to that philosophy, the Seaside High School Symphonic Band includes 93 young musicians — or roughly 20% of the student population — for the 2019-20 school year. The band’s membership typically fluctuates between 70 and 90 students.
The benefits of band
There is no audition process to join the symphonic band, which attends competition on behalf of the high school and has gone to the state finals every year since 2006.
One of the benefits of teaching at the middle school, Dahlgren said, is that by the time students attend high school, he is familiar with how they play and their skill level on a particular instrument.
“We have an incredible cross-section of the student body, and people are here for different reasons,” Dahlgren said. “At the end of the day, we all come together and try to be as amazing as we can be as a group.”
One of the draws of being in band is that “it’s not standardized,” senior Nick Mace, who plays the euphonium, said. Students typically don’t get access to making the majority of their own decisions until after graduation.
“To be able to choose to play an instrument and do something that’s extremely recreational but in school is why a lot of people like and benefit from it,” he said.
Sophomore Sean Olea, a clarinet player, added that participating in band offers a valuable source of stress-relief and a positive distraction from other stressors from school or their personal lives.
Plus, since band meets during first period, “it’s a nice start to the day,” junior Briana Boyd, who plays flute and piccolo, said.
In addition to the symphonic band, Seaside also has a pep band and jazz band, which involves the same students playing different types of songs. The jazz band includes 17 dedicated students who commit to attending practice at 7:15 a.m. throughout the week. They are introduced to different techniques and a style that incorporates more improvisation and soloing.
“That part to me is very fun, to see people get more confident doing that kind of thing,” Dahlgren said.
The jazz band plays at various community functions in addition to the school’s concerts. They were featured artists at the Seaside Jazz Festival in the past, and in January of this year, they performed a joint concert with the North Coast Big Band at the Times Theatre.
The pep band attends games, assemblies and other activities where school spirit is highlighted, playing popular songs and familiar movie soundtracks. That band’s focus is “trying to add to the atmosphere of the event,” Dahlgren said.
The students like the varied types of ensembles offered.
Boyd enjoys playing the different styles of music. While the competition pieces are more challenging, pushing her to work harder and reap a greater sense of achievement, the pep band songs are fun and familiar.
“They’re enjoyable in different ways,” she said. “You feel the reward when you’re doing the hard stuff, but when you’re doing the easier stuff, it’s just fun to play.”
Mace also doesn’t feel daunted by challenging songs but appreciates the process of taking steps to improve.
That persistence and commitment is something encouraged by Dahlgren and his style of instruction, which facilitates “the idea of not being good at something and being okay with that, because you can make a roadmap,” Mace said, adding, “That’s an enjoyable thing to be around and in class with.”