Music program inches into Forks High School
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Lonnie Archibald/for Peninsula Daily News
The Forks combined high school-middle school jazz band plays under the direction of Erika Rudnicki , left.

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

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FORKS — Although the sounds of drums and brass and woodwind instruments have yet to echo through the hallways of the new Forks High School building, the beginnings of a new high school music program have taken shape around four Spartan freshmen and a sophomore who will form the lead generation of a new era of Forks music.

More than 100 students are involved in the middle and high school combined bands. Only five are from the high school.

Those students are taking part in a combined symphonic band and a jazz band for the eighth and ninth grades, said music director Erika Rudnicki.

The combined band practices at the middle school but performs at some high school sporting events as a pep band, attends music festivals, is actively recruiting new high school-level band members — and is trying to find the money to buy instruments the high school music program needs.

The Quillayute Valley School District music program was canceled in 2006 because of a lack of funding.

But in 2010, voters approved a two-year $626,348 property tax levy, part of which was designated to fund the reinstatement of the district's music program.

Music instruction has slowly been making a comeback, and the high school is expected to have an independent program in 2014.

Being part of the new wave of musicians at Forks High School has been a great experience, said freshman band member Jordan Burt, especially seeing the reactions of students who didn't know that the school offered music.

Jordan, 15, began playing the flute in the sixth grade when she lived in Oklahoma City. She moved to Forks in 2010, when the middle school program was reintroduced, and now plays bassoon in the symphonic band.

“There are university programs that have big scholarships available to someone who can play the bassoon well,” Jordan said.

Austin Pegram, 15, plays trombone in the symphonic band and said he plans to join the jazz band next year.

One of the bigger problems with getting middle school students to stick with music into high school is their concern about how their peers might see band members in social terms, Austin said.

“Most of the high school students think it's pretty cool. I think most of the kids at the lower levels will stick with it,” he said.

Jordan and Austin both said they are excited to help create the pep band for football and basketball games, and envision the music program becoming a big thing at the high school by the time they are seniors.

Other founding members of the high school band are sophomore Anna Sinclair and freshmen Danyl Fagan-Rogers and Hugo Lucas.

Next year, the two schools will need to combine bands again because of a low number of high school musicians and a lack of equipment at the high school, Rudnicki said.

The high school program is expected to grow each year as the 105 middle school music students grow older, and by the 2014-2015 school year, the high school will need an independent program, she said.

Rudnicki was hired as the middle school's new music teacher after voters approved the levy in 2010.

She started with some middle school music students drumming on the backs of chairs with drumsticks because there weren't enough instruments to go around.

In 2011, the district added elementary school music and hired Joe Osborne to teach the youngest students, giving them experience with the basic concepts of music before entering the middle school band program.

When the current eighth-grade class enters the ninth grade this fall, the only thing holding up classes at the new high school, which opened in 2012, will be a lack of equipment in the new, modern music room at the high school.

When the district built the new high school addition, the plans included a music room, but the room sits quietly, waiting for the music to arrive.

There aren't enough marimbas, timpani, tubas, bassoons and French horns — large, relatively expensive instruments that are necessary for a band and usually owned by the school — for both the middle and high school music programs, Rudnicki said.

Rudnicki estimated that it will cost $15,000 or more to stock the band room with the essential instruments for a high school-level performance band.

A search of the Internet showed that a timpani percussion set costs about $3,000, a good-quality French horn is $2,500, and high-school level bassoons start at about $4,000.

There are four bands at the middle school level: a sixth-grade brass band, a sixth-grade woodwind band, a seventh-grade concert band and the eighth-grade symphonic band.

Rudnicki also offers a before-school jazz band for students who want the additional challenge.

Starting a brand-new program is exciting, she said, but on Rudnicki's wish list is an additional teacher to take over at the high school level, which will eventually have a similar multiband class schedule — and hopefully a marching band.

The symphonic band took part in the 2012 Port Angeles Music Festival, also known as the North Olympic Music Educators band assessment, and is scheduled to play at this year's event March 6 at Port Angeles High School.

Rudnicki said she also plans for the district music program to return to Port Angeles for the 2014 solo and ensemble regional music competition, held in Port Angeles each January, in which students are evaluated in solo and small-group performances.

The new young musicians missed the competition this year but should be ready in 2014, she said.

The best soloists and ensembles in each region are sent to the state solo and ensemble competition, held during the last weekend in April.

Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at

Last modified: February 05. 2013 6:07PM
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