Home Arts & Culture After COVID delay, Reagan band takes top national honor

After COVID delay, Reagan band takes top national honor

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The Reagan High School Band performs at the 2019 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. The band recently was awarded the National Program of Excellence Blue Ribbon from the National Band Association. Courtesy photo/North East Independent School District

The Reagan High School Band ended the 2020-2021 school year by formally receiving a top nationwide honor — the National Program of Excellence Blue Ribbon.

The Illinois-based National Band Association bestowed upon Reagan and six other U.S. high school bands and a middle school band the National Program of Excellence distinction by recognizing their performances during the 2019-2020 academic year.

But, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting restrictions over the past year, Reagan didn’t receive an award presentation until this spring.

NBA is the world’s largest band organization with more than 2,000 members. All but one of the schools to receive the national Blue Ribbon for 2019-2020 are located in Texas.

The Reagan band has racked up numerous awards and honors over its history, including appearances in the Tournament of Roses Parade and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.

However, Principal Brenda Shelton said it’s “humbling” NBA sees the Reagan band as one of the best school bands in the nation.

“We have extremely dedicated students, parents and directors. We are very proud of our students,” Shelton said. “Enduring a year of limited students on campus has reminded us all that having school without our students on campus is not something we enjoyed. Our students are amazing and they are the reason we thrive.”

Reagan band director Greg White said finally receiving the band association’s award was “emotional” for band members.

“This was our first live concert after the pandemic, and our seniors’ last performance with the band. For us to be presented with an award that recognized the hard work all our students put in year-round at this event meant the world to us,” he said.

White said he and his colleagues worked hard to ensure Reagan students continued receiving a comprehensive music education during a year of limited or no group gatherings and mainly remote virtual classes.

“While prioritizing the health and safety of our students above all else, we were able to put on a marching production that showcased the history, tradition and excellence of the Reagan band,” White said.

White continued: “We had clinicians Zoom in from the Boston Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony. We put on virtual concerts, and in the end of the school year we had the opportunity to come together and make music for an audience. Our motto for the entire year was, ‘Different does not mean worse,’ and I believe we lived up to that expectation.”

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