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Band Program Continues to Grow at High Desert Middle School

HDMS Band Director, Tara Brewer directs her students during a recent school concert. Photo by Jenn Walker.

In the band room at High Desert Middle School, tennis shoes tap in sync on the floor to Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.” Flutes, clarinets, saxophones, and trumpets blare. The music reaches a crescendo, and then suddenly comes to a halt.

The tempo was a bit slow, says band director Tara Brewer to the 24 students seated in front of her. These students make up High Desert Middle School’s symphonic band. She hums the tune for them and waves her baton to show them how the song should sound. They pick up where they left off. The second time is a charm.

These students, all 7th and 8th graders, have been taking band with Brewer since she first began teaching at High Desert in 2012. She had 33 students that year, from grades 6th through 8th. Because the school had just restarted its band program, all of them were beginners.


“When we first started, it was just a bunch of noise,” professes 8th grade trumpet player Victoria Mata. “Now that we’re in 8th grade, our music is all together.”

According to Brewer, the transformation has been huge.

“I can’t even begin to explain it,” she says. “These guys [learned] from barely starting an instrument, I mean, barely learning the notes.” 

In 2012, High Desert Middle School was looking for a band director. Hailing from Texas, Brewer happened to show up in Globe at the right time. She filled the position at the beginning of 2012.

Since then, the school’s band program has continued to grow. Last year, Brewer had 41 students. This year she had 64, and next year she projects that she will have close to 100.

Mata, like other students in the symphonic band, has been taking band with Brewer since 6th grade. Mata’s class will be the first that Brewer has watched grow from 6th grade up to graduation.

For many students, including Mata, Brewer’s classes were their first exposure to music.

“I thought it would be fun to read notes and know what musicians are playing,” Mata remembers.

“What is difficult for many students now is they have to understand that you learn any instrument the same exact way as the people learned them in the 1600s, 1700s, and 1800s,” Brewer says. “We’re so used to–you want something to eat, you put it in the microwave for three minutes. Everything is so fast, so rapid. But to learn an instrument, that process has not changed, it takes time.”

Students at High Desert can join beginning band in 6th grade, and move up to the symphonic band in 7th and 8th grade.

Brewer chooses songs that cater to each level, and the students will learn the songs line by line in class throughout the year. That includes songs like “25 or 6 to 4” by Chicago, or “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne. She uses songs by Queen for the difficult rhythms, or songs like “The Forge of Vulcan,” where the band drummers bang on trash cans to imitate the sound of blacksmiths pounding metal, to keep things interesting. Last year, students learned a Swahili Christmas song.

Brewer’s symphonic band meets five days a week throughout the school year. Here, she guides her students through “Another One Bites the Dust” during class. Photo by Jenn Walker.

“It’s really cool for them to do that kind of fun stuff, because you’ll never hear it on the radio,” Brewer says.

Getting music like this for the band program requires immense support from principal Steve and vice principal Lori Rodriguez, she points out.

“All of this music that you see here, they found the money to get it to these kids, because naturally you can’t have a program without music that will help these kids grow,” she says, pointing to a stack of books in her office.

It was her own experiences playing and growing in school bands, in fact, that drove her to become a band director. Her hope has been to give her students the same kind of band experience she had.

“My high school band experience was incredible,” she remembers.

Brewer came up in Plain View, Texas, where the high school marching band has been dubbed the “Power House of the Plains.” She started out on the clarinet as a teenager. By the time she was in high school, she was playing baritone sax for Plain View High, which is more than 300 strong. Three years in a row, she was an all-state band member. In her best year, she placed 11th out of thousands.

By 2006, she graduated from West Texas A&M University cum laude in music education. She began teaching as an assistant band director in fall of that same year in Hereford, Texas, where she remained until she moved to Globe.

“It’s really good for these kids to stick with something and persevere,” she says. “Just the fact that they have the drive to make themselves better at their instruments is so beneficial for the rest of their lives… It builds that self-confidence, it builds that sense of ‘I can do anything if I just sit down and work at it.’” 

And they do.

Eighth grader Gabriel Angulo began playing in the High Desert band just to try it. Like Mata, he has been taking band with Brewer since 6th grade.

“I thought it would be cool,” he remembers.

Now, as a member of the symphonic band, his favorite part of being in band is being on the stage.

“It’s hard at first, but once you get the hang of it, you start building up your skills,” he says.

Next he is considering playing trumpet in high school.

With her 8th graders moving on to high school, Brewer has her sights set on her next goal–to get as many kids into band as she can.

Just as this was going to press, GMT found out that Brewer’s husband had taken a job in Texas and she would be leaving HDMS. Principal Steven Estacio says she will be greatly missed at the middle school where they are currently in the process of looking for a band director who can carry on the program which Brewer so ably led for several years.

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