Make way for the band
Kemp High School band breaks school records with first UIL Sweepstakes and
qualification to UIL Area marching contest
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
CEDAR CREEK LAKEWho doesnt thrill to the sound of a big band as it marches in
a parade or take the field at halftime? You can tell that those musicians are having a
ball while performing in step with one another.
Monitor Photo/Pearl Cantrell
Student leaders (from left) Rhyan Pennington, Raymond Morris, Caleb Murray, Veronica
Valentin, Toni Old, Bill Neighbors, Hailey Stovall, Ben Dillon and Allen Old represent
their 85-member band.
As spectators, parents and friends of band students, we know a little about the kind of
time commitment band requires. What we may not understand are the benefits students reap
benefits that keep them coming back year after year, making the sacrifices it takes
to be a member of a top team of performers.
All of the schools in our district have award-winning arts programs. However, we wanted to
focus our attention on the unprecedented successes of one of the smallest schools in the
For the past three years, the Kemp Band program has been under the combined leadership of
director Jimmy Polk and assistant director Marc Christy. Together these two have developed
a band program that has propelled the district to its first ever UIL Division I rating in
both Marching Band and Concert Band, making Kemp a UIL Sweepstakes winner.
This past fall, the high school marching band continued its success by advancing to the
UIL Area marching contest.
Receiving Division I ratings in both events in the same school year is a very rare
occurrence, Christy explained. To put that into perspective, in the districts
total years of operation, it would be comparable to never having won a district
championship until now.
Additionally, one junior high and five high school students qualified for the All-Region
Band, amidst heavy competition. Finally, this past spring, 31 students advanced to the
state level of competition in solo and ensemble performance, the most Kemp has ever sent.
With a band enrollment of approximately 330 students (6th through 12th grade) these
achievements were accomplished with a 165 to 1 student-to-director ratio.
The only way we could achieve these results is with great student leadership,
Polk told The Monitor. I rely heavily on them, especially the seniors.
The band is organized in sections, with rankings in each for flutes, clarinets, trumpets,
percussion, etc. These section leaders communicate any changes in band events, rehearsal
schedules and competitions. They make sure everyone in their section has transportation to
rehearsals and performances, and are ready for each event.
They often lead section rehearsals and set a standard for behavior and
performance, Polk explained.
Our student leaders are pivotal to our success, he said. (The students feel
the same way about Polk and Christy.)
After a lengthy audition process, senior Hailey Stovall was awarded the position of drum
major for the band.
Stovall was one of the clarinet players that scored so highly as part of the UIL Division
I Clarinet Quartet.
Stovall is confident about her future. She plans on a career in the medical field.
There are job opportunities, room for advancement as well as opportunity to continue
my education, she told The Monitor.
The choice for Stovall as drum major should not come as a surprise, when you consider she
holds officer posts with three other school organizations, as well as the honor of class
She keeps up with her band leadership, while also competing scholastically in UIL Literary
Criticism, Reading, Writing and Social Studies, turning in admirable performances in each.
Additionally, she works on the weekends at Whatz-Up Family Entertainment in Seven Points
as a birthday party hostess.
The biggest thing band has given me this year is support, she said.
Stovalls mother died last October, the day before district band competition (Oct.
Mr. Polk came up to the hospital to tell me I didnt have to perform, but I
couldnt let the band down. Besides, my mother always supported my band activity, a
lot. She wouldnt want me to let that go. We got a Division 2 that day, which
encouraged all of us to do better, and we did when we went back and got the Division I
rating in Mesquite later (that same month).
It was good to learn I still had the ability to do it, she said.
Band has taught me how to not just think about myself, but to think about everyone
else, she added.
The band vice-president is junior Caleb Murray, an exceptional young man who is being
reared by his grandparents. He aspires to become the next drum major. This year, he also
played varsity football and participated in the recent musical production of
He clearly sees himself teaching and directing band students in his professional life.
Being in band assured me that I want to be a teacher and further my music
education, Murray said. Perhaps its because Ive had so much fun in
Murray is proficient on both trumpet and French horn. His wish is to become proficient on
the cello, and has recently taken up violin.
Ive never been able to take private lessons, but Id like to, he
Murray appreciates the introduction to classical music that band has given him.
Classical music is so difficult, technical and has many nuances, he said.
As I learn a (classical) piece, I learn about myself and the composer and when I put
it all together it makes a collage through which I can express my own emotion.
He says band has taught him to socialize, helped him develop a good work ethic and taught
him humility, along with a sense of respect and duty.
Sophomore valedictorian Ben Dillon has been playing the trumpet for four years and
lettered in varsity football this year as a guard. He also participates in powerlifting
I feel band has made me more confident in speaking to people, because youre
around a lot of people (in band) and you have to talk, he said.
Dillon admits to wanting to play guitar, but failing at it, even though he owns two of
them. He successfully switch from French horn to trumpet, however. Band has also taught
I just stay up later and get it done (homework). I cant stand turning in late
work, he said. Though he reviews all the colleges invitations he receives, he
confided that hed like to go to West Point.
Seniors Veronica Valentin and Toni Old both have younger siblings in band this year. This
doesnt seem to bother them at all. Its a good experience for both of
us, Valentin says of her sister Cassies participation in the percussion
Band helps me concentrate and be calm, Old said. When Im in band,
everything else kind of washes away. It helps me relax.
Both big sisters are highly involved in other activities in addition to band. Valentin is
in drama club and has been a Stingerette drill team member since the seventh grade. When
asked how she fits it all in, Valentin replied, Its complicated, but you get
Her unflappable confidence to handle whatever may come is obvious. Valentin describes her
experience with band as an extension of herself. Its like my second family.
Mr. Christy and Mr. Polk are wonderful directors, you learn a lot from them. Both helped
me with a rhythm study and notes I didnt know. And then we got Division I in
Ensemble, she said. Band has mostly helped me be able to make anyone my
friend. You have to get along with anybody.
Additionally, she noted that her ability to read and comprehend just about anything comes
easily and quickly, due to band making her read and memorize music.
One recent scientific study found that musicians have larger planum temporale (brain
region related to some reading skills) than non-musicians.
In addition to her commitment to band, Old enjoys the puppet ministry at her church, is a
member of the National Honor Societys BETA Club and loves to read. Shed like
to work with children as a physical therapist. I love to help people, but Im
not cut out to be a teacher, because I have a little bit of a temper, she said.
Few know that junior Bill Neighbors, percussionist, recently completed his Eagle Scout
project. Its the Solar Walk along the lakeside road at Purtis Creek State Park near
That project and band required a great deal of persistence and dedication, he
said, a dedication that continues to help him in many other areas of his life.
He also credits band with instilling a sense of teamwork. Band is the biggest team
sport there is, he said.
This year was his first time to compete for All-Region band. I was nervous and was
the fourth one to play. But Im glad I had the experience of going. I know Ill
do better next time, he said.
He recommends band to anyone, as long as they understand it takes hard work, which
results in rewards. Playing a majestic piece makes you feel something great and big is
happening, and Im a part of it, he said.
Fellow percussionist senior Raymond Morris also plays the bass clarinet during concert
season. Hes also senior class treasurer, is a member of the BETA Club, participates
in track and cross-country and serves the band as chaplain.
I offer the prayer before major band events and performances and am somewhat of a
counselor to my fellow band students, he explained.
He describes band as a family. We share our passion for music together and can call
on each other for anything, he said.
He plans on becoming a surgical technician with training from UT-Arlington in the fall. He
names band and athletics as his two favorite classes. Though obviously a serious young
man, his favorite percussive instrument is the cymbals. I love the way it blows my
hair up when I bang them together.
Rhyan Pennington plays the flute and the French horn. She had a supporting role in the
schools theater production of Footloose and enjoys her church
activities, as well as participating in the BETA Club.
Ready to finish her high school career and begin higher education, Pennington has combined
her junior and senior year into one.
She sees herself owning her own music store one day, while raising a family that includes
lots of sensible kids, who shine as lights in this pitiful world.
She feels band has enriched her life and has noticed a real difference between those who
have had music education and those who have not.
She also credits her band experience with teaching her self-discipline and common sense
and finds she easily applies these lessons to other areas of her life.
Recently, Comptroller of Public Accounts Susan Combs announced a groundbreaking study on
school finance related to student achievement.
Perhaps, she would have done better to include the quality of a school districts
music education program. Many studies have shown that students who study music, especially
band, exhibit greater achievement in math and reading on standardized tests.
A 2004 study of college-bound seniors found that those who study music score better than
the average student in both the verbal and math sections of the SAT. Music students
averaged 536 for verbal and 533 for math, while the overall average was 508 for verbal and
518 for math.