Sarah Cody didn’t have a moment’s hesitation when she received the request from her high school band director.
The Gulf High School senior French horn player has a passion for music, so much so that she plans to study the subject at the University of South Florida. So how could she say no to the opportunity to perform in a district-wide recording of Pomp and Circumstance for her own (and everyone else’s) graduation?
“Immediately I was on it,” the marching band drum major said. “Fortunately I brought (the horn) home with me.”
It took Cody a couple of days to get her track sounding good enough to meet her standards. Then she sent it in to the school district office and hoped for the best.
Usually, each school has its own concert band perform live and in person as the graduating class makes its way into the arena. Seniors rarely participate, as they’re part of the processional.
This year is not usual, though. Traditional commencement ceremonies have been postponed until August, when everyone hopes the threat of COVID-19 has dissipated.
In the meantime, schools have turned to virtual celebrations.
But that didn’t mean they had to use canned music, suggested Andy Dunn, the Pasco County school district’s chief videographer who’s also a former music teacher.
“I just thought it would be nice to include as many students from as many different schools as we could,” said Dunn, who had seen other schools’ Zoom music videos and contemplated doing one locally.
He passed the idea to county fine arts coordinator Tom Viking, who ran with it. He asked high school band teachers to seek performers, while he put together the sheet music and prepared a “click track” — literally a recording of clicks — so all the students would know the pace to play.
From there, it was up to the students to do their part.
“It actually was really fun to do,” said Mia Pulice, a Mitchell High senior and tuba section leader for her marching band.
She called it “kind of weird" to perform alone in her home, plugged into a headset to hear where she fit into the arrangement. But Pulice said she was able to stay on time with the music and keep the beat.
“I’m excited to hear what it sounds like at graduation,” she said.
Samantha Cody, Sarah’s twin sister, said it was “really special” to be able to take part in the activity. It offered a small way to remain involved with band at a time of year when she had hoped to be in the music room enjoying final days with the band family before leaving for good.
Plus, “I get to play at my own graduation,” said the trumpet player, who also plans to study music education at USF.
Jared Viking, the director’s son, plays trumpet in the Mitchell High band. He said he found the project “cool” because it brought together musicians from all over Pasco to celebrate the seniors.
“I thought it was a nice thing to do, since we’re all stuck inside," he said.
The final project came out at one minute and 47 seconds, after Dunn spliced all the pieces together. It will be featured at the introduction to the district’s 15 graduation videos, fading away into the virtual event.
Tom Viking said he was pleased with the result, given that it depended on student volunteers who had to record at home. In a perfect world, he acknowledged, it might have had more percussion, fewer clarinets, and a different overall mix of instruments.
But the melody comes through clearly, he observed. And it’s a perfect complement to the online ceremony that everyone will be watching from home.
“I think this is outstanding,” Viking said, “and I’m so proud of what the kids did.”