Berkley High School band director Alan Posner isn't the type to toot his own horn, but he has a lot to be proud of since taking over the role during the 2011-2012 school year.
The marching band has grown from 76 members in 2011 to 107 in 2012 and received a Division I ranking for the first time in school history Oct. 10 during the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Festival in Royal Oak.
"I think the passion and energy for music at Berkley has always been here," Posner said. "Students, parents, administration and community members have always had a lot of respect and pride for the arts. For me, it was very easy to take this program to the next level because of this energy around the music department."
Posner also serves as Norup International School's band director.
He recently took some time to answer a few questions from Berkley Patch about the BHS marching band. Read on to find out about Posner's long-term goals for the program, the band's pre-game ritual, its Homecoming game half-time performance of Korean pop star PSY's catchy dance tune Gangnam Style and more.
Tell us about the significance of the band's recent Division I ranking.
We were absolutely ecstatic with our first division rating. The Berkley Bands have received first division ratings before at Band Festival in March, but this is the first "Division I" rating at Marching Band Festival. This was never a goal for us this year simply because we didn't think we could get there with how quickly our band expanded and how many new members we had (43 out of 107). The students worked incredibly hard all season and were able to achieve something that I did not think that they could.
Senior drum major Lim-Lim Kobe has played an important leadership role. How will the band fill that position after her graduation?
Lim-Lim has been instrumental in the band's development and eventual success this year. Her absence next year, along with the rest of the senior class, will be greatly missed. Luckily, we have two incredibly talented and passionate Junior Drum Majors, David Pellerito and Allie Archambault.
Does the band have any superstitions, good luck charms or pre-performance rituals?
Yes. Before every halftime the band gathers to the north of the stands for a pre-game speech given by the head drum major. After the speech the band chants "half-time's game time." It's very cool to see and really helps focus our students and pumps them up for half-time.
What is the band's relationship with the football team?
The band has a great relationship with varsity head coach Jeff Burnside and athletic director Lori Stone. We are always working in coordination to ensure that our students have the best possible experience on Friday nights. I can't talk about the relationship between the band and the team without bringing up our starting right guard and senior tuba section leader, Armen Brus. Armen is an incredibly hardworking, dedicated and talented individual that (with the permission of coach Burnside) marches with the band and plays football on Friday nights. Watching a football player throw off his jersey and strap on a tuba at half-time is something that is unique to Berkley High School.
What are your long-term goals for the band?
I would like to continue to grow the size of the program as well as the playing ability of all of the ensembles. At the same time, I think it's important to understand that the Berkley marching band has an "identity" as a fun and energetic ensemble. I would like to continue to combine our identity with a heightened level of performance expectations.
What are you most proud of and/or what was your happiest moment since taking over as director?
I was very proud of our seniors who graduated last year. They were a small class but they really showed me how important music education was to their lives. They did not have the best band experience (three different directors in four years), but by sticking it out for their senior year, they really showed me how much music meant to them and how important music was to their high school experience.
Whose idea was it for the band to learn Gangnam Style by Korean pop star PSY and were there any challenges in adapting it for half-time during the Homecoming game on Oct. 12?
I really can't remember. I can tell you it wasn't me! The only challenge was getting it ready to perform for homecoming with only two rehearsals. We had band festival on Wednesday night and homecoming was that Friday. Because of the hard work and dedication of our students, we were able to pull off a great performance.