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Upholding tradition, HHS band brings home gold

Celebrating the Gold performance were HHS band senior girls, from left, Kat Speese, Eva Sainsbury, Milinda Roper, Airiana Smith and Terencia Aguilar and senior boys Miles Nix, Joseph Deluca, Peter Zwingert, Cameron Hampton and Tully Graziano. Celebrating the Gold performance were HHS band senior girls, from left, Kat Speese, Eva Sainsbury, Milinda Roper, Airiana Smith and Terencia Aguilar and senior boys Miles Nix, Joseph Deluca, Peter Zwingert, Cameron Hampton and Tully Graziano.

Olivia Baer was stunned to hear her name called during Saturday’s awards ceremony after the Hendersonville High School band performance in the St. Louis Heritage Festival.


“Mr. Phillips submitted my name for a leadership award and I didn’t even know it,” she said. Her job as band librarian expanded as the St. Louis trip grew closer. “I organize stuff. I’m the one in charge of collecting permission slips. I was also in charge of checking off instruments as we loaded them on the bus.”
Jim Phillips, in his first year leading HHS’s highly regarded band program, said he counted on Baer for more than that.
“I’m new to the program and a lot of the kids have stepped up and tried to teach me about the heritage of the program,” he said. “She’s gone further than just help me with paperwork. She’s in charge of the library and making sure everyone has the appropriate music. She’s done a lot of different things this year.”
The 87-piece combined symphonic and concert band came home with a Gold rating after performing three pieces in the adjudicated competition.
“We spent one and a half days in education,” Phillips said. “We toured the Arch, we took a riverboat ride on the Tom Sawyer, we went to the zoo and the historic courthouse.”
The musicians were a bit unsettled when they struck the first notes in the auditorium at Chaminade College Preparatory School and noticed that the acoustics amplified the percussion. The band adjusted and members left the stage thinking they had done OK.
“We were all a bit shocked when they called our name,” Baer said. “We were all thinking we got silver but then they called us for gold and we said, ‘Oh, that’s good.’”
Phillips, who came to HHS from Shelby, was happy for the success of the Hendersonville band, which boasts a string of musical success going back to 1937.
“This program has tons of hardware the students have earned,” he said, sweeping a hand toward the dozens of trophies perched on a high shelf in the band room. “It’s a big deal to continue that tradition and make sure it’s protected.”
The musicians and their parents and band boosters were happy for Phillips, who faced the challenge of taking the baton from Fran Shelton, the legendary director who led the HHS band program for 27 years. It was like following Dean Smith at UNC or Mike Krzyzewski at Duke.
“It was bound to be difficult for whoever came into this position,” said Olivia’s mother, Margaret Baer, a past band booster president. “He’s a wonderful man. I think if the kids give him a chance he’ll be great.”