Get news that matters to you, sent directly to your inbox every Thursday morning, from Greater Oviedo & Winter Springs’ only nonprofit newsroom. Send me local news!
It has all come together for the Hagerty High School marching band.
Led by brothers Brad and Brian Kuperman for more than a decade, the Marching Huskies were recognized as one of the best high school bands in the country by the National Band Association last month.
The school was named the Southern Division recipient for the NBA’s Programs of Excellence Blue Ribbon Award, making it one of only five schools across the nation to earn the honor.
“We’ve never had anything on a national level like this, so it’s nice,” Brian said. “It was really cool to be selected.”
Consisting of a marching band, two jazz ensembles, three concert bands and a percussion ensemble, the Hagerty band grew from about 130 members when the Kupermans took over in 2012 to more than 200 in 2019. They saw a dip due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but is close to 180 currently.
Marching bands submit performance recordings and band details to the NBA that are reviewed by a panel of judges that includes college band directors and other musicians. Hagerty submitted performances from their concert season, jazz band and chamber ensembles. The process encompasses performances over multiple years, so can include members who are no longer in high school.
“[It can include] kids not just majoring in music, but anyone who’s continuing in any way [beyond high school],” Brian said. “If [a former band member] goes to a college and they’re still playing in the marching band, even though they’re an accounting major … you list all of those things.
“It was a nice recognition for the students because it’s a thing that shows the dedication of the kids, not only here, but beyond,” he said. “It’s [also] an indirect recognition of Jackson Heights and Lawton Chiles [middle schools], because that’s where most of our students come from. Without those kids coming up from the middle schools and their experience there, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do here.”
The brothers pick what bands or artists to use songs from for the season months before it begins. They chose Queen for the 2021-2022 school year and The Beatles for this current school year. For The Beatles’ ensemble, they play Hey Jude, Eleanor Rigby and a medley of Blackbird and Yesterday.
“We ask the students’ input and we see what they’re interested in and try to come up with something that we think would be fun to play, especially during the marching season that the audience would enjoy,” Brian said.
Earning the Blue Ribbon recognition did not come without its difficulties and forced innovation, however.
When COVID-19 led to students attending school virtually and in hybrid settings, the Hagerty band was affected tremendously. They were not able to practice marching or syncing with each other in person while playing.
To mitigate those issues, the Kupermans utilized the technology available and worked with the band in unique ways. Brian and Brad would split up, with one working fully with online students, and the other working with the in-class students.
“It was definitely a challenge,” Brian said. “By the end of the year, I actually got a projector … and I would project the students that were at home on the back wall. They would play along with us, but they were muted so they could only hear us and hear themselves, but we couldn’t hear them unless I unmuted them.”
Despite the challenges, the band continued to improve, and the Kupermans saw what they had, leading them to apply for the Blue Ribbon recognition, something they had also done about five years earlier. While they did not earn the honor then, they took the feedback they received about needing more of a variety of ensembles to heart. When they realized the band’s growth they reapplied.
“We’ve got a pretty strong program,” Brian said. “The students work hard and they get excited when they do well.”
“The band has been so successful,” said Hagerty band booster Diane Isla, whose son, Teage plays saxophone in the band. “For this to be put through, even telling my son, his friends, his other bandmates, they were kind of surprised, shocked and honored, I think, and felt happy that they were getting some props.
“It obviously boosts morale for the students.”
Brian is excited to see what the current success brings to the future of the band.
“I’m hoping that this kind of recognition, and them seeing what is Possible, is going to really push them to want to be a part of this again,” Brian said. “Hopefully that’ll help grow our program and we get to see more kids because they see how much these other guys are enjoying it.
“I’m glad that I’m able to help facilitate that and get that for other students,” Brian said. “It’s a great feeling.”