The MSJ music program has gone through several iterations in the past few years, and multiple band directors. Currently, Mr. Nathan Royer ’98 has been at the helm of the program, but before that, Mr. Mike Alfieri was the director. Both had different teaching styles, and I wanted to know the students’ opinions on these changes. I also wanted to know looking forward where they see the band going.
Robby Linthicum ’24, a drummer, commented on Mr. Alfieri’s strive for perfection in music, saying he likes Mr. Royer’s style better. “Mr. Royer actually enjoys the process of music.” Matthias Gomezjurado ’25, who plays saxophone, also prefers Mr. Royer’s teaching style to his predecessor. “Since Mr. Royer is a graduate of MSJ, he is more in tune of what’s going on, and he’s more enthusiastic…about making the band better.” Alex Sleeman ’25, a flutist, and Ryan Paradela ’25, a violinist, both echoed similar claims. “Mr. Royer is a lot more lax with the band than Mr. Alfieri, in a good way. They have two different types of teaching styles, and personally, I like Mr. Royer’s more,” said Ryan.
I also talked to Mr. Royer. I asked what the band would do for the annual Christmas Concert. Currently, the symphonic band plays at the home football games, including at the pep rally and homecoming. But soon, Mr. Royer introduce the band to some slightly different music. “After the next football game, the band will shift from pep band mode and mix in a little symphonic stuff just to see where things are, and that will give us a better indication of what we might play for the Christmas Concert.” One composition Mr. Royer is considering is a collection of pieces from the Back to the Future soundtrack. This was started last year but never made it into the program. As for other songs, Mr. Royer told me, “I’m currently looking at music online for not necessarily the Christmas Concert but also for the Spring.” The Christmas Concert takes place on Tuesday, December 12th, at 7 p.m. in the auditorium.
I also asked Mr. Royer about his long-term plans for the band’s future. “I would really like to get an actual marching band up and running. I think it’s definitely doable, if not next year, probably the year after.” This is something that several students, including Matthias, have requested: “I would like to have a marching band. I think that would heighten the band in a way for the football games. During halftime, they would be most especially relevant, to be able to march out there and hype up the student section.” Mr. Royer said there would be some challenges to being able to make that happen. “One of the big hurdles with that is having equipment. We actually have a decent amount of it, but it’s pretty tough to get.” Another issue the band is facing is recruitment. Over the past few years, participation levels in the band have decreased. “A lot of schools’ band programs took a hard hit during COVID. Being a private school, it’s harder to build it back up versus a public school, because in public schools, the populations are bigger, and they’re always going to have students. Also, being an all-male school as opposed to co-ed cuts the numbers in half almost, not entirely, but generally. There are some things I’m doing with the help of admissions to do more outreach and promotion to get more interest and get more students in the program and build up the numbers,” said Mr. Royer. Several other students I talked to agreed that recruitment was an issue that needed to be resolved. Ryan said, “Most of it comes down to the people in the band. It would be great if there were more people in it.” Matthias also echoed this statement, suggesting that promoting the band within the school could get more people to join.
Many students are hesitant to join the music program because they see themselves as not good enough to perform with a group. This is not true. Many of our musicians start at a more fundamental level, then gain experience and get better. Also, the community is fantastic. In fact, Robby’s favorite part of the whole program is “just being able to lock in with other musicians.” Lastly, I asked Alex and Ryan what they liked most about the program. Alex said, “I enjoy all the opportunities that MSJ provides for their musical students, such as playing for the theatrical performances in pit band and playing at the pep games.” Ryan’s favorite part is “just learning new music that I had never heard before, but still sounds amazing, and playing through it.”
MSJ’s music programs have changed quite a bit over the past few years, but all my interviewees said it is moving positively. We hope to skyrocket the band’s popularity at MSJ by recruiting more players and adding a marching band.