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Band of Pirates earns a berth in the big show

The band will be part of a Pasco musical contingent heading to Tallahassee in May for competition against the best in the state.

By CHASE SQUIRES

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 9, 2001


DADE CITY -- For just the fifth time in the past 50 years, Pasco High School's Band of Pirates is heading to one of the most prestigious performance arenas in the state, after earning an overall ranking of "superior" in district competition last weekend.

Other Pasco County school bands also earned the right to attend. Two bands from River Ridge Middle/High School and one band each from Gulf, Hudson and Mitchell high schools were invited.

Pasco High School band director Michael Wickersheim said he is excited for the school and for his students as they prepare for May's Florida Bandmasters Association State Concert Festival, the toughest and most respected stage band program in the state.

Wickersheim said the event will test them to be at their best and will put them under the scrutiny of some of the top college band directors in the country.

"Just to be invited is a very big honor," he said. "This is what they work for and practice for and really get up for. I think they're all flying high over this one."

To earn the invitation, school bands perform in district evaluations. The bands play a march and two orchestral selections that they have prepared, then they must tackle two more works -- pieces they have likely never seen before -- with only a few minutes to review the score and get ready.

Pasco High's band earned an overall rating of superior, which punched its ticket to the big show in Tallahassee.

Travis Henry, head of the county's bandleader association, said he was impressed with the performances of all the county's bands and said a marked improvement this year reflects more support in the various band programs.

"I've heard Pasco High four times in the past four years, and this was by far the best they've ever sounded," he said. "They really just play well together and with Michael."

Henry said Wickersheim had tears in his eyes when he saw the final ranking of superior.

"He was so happy for his kids, for the program, for everything," Henry said. "They all worked so hard for this."

Wickersheim, 31, said he depended a lot on his mentor, R.B. Stewart Middle School band director Mike Vail, in his five years at Pasco High. Learning from other band directors, and then learning how to work with the students, have been the keys to success, he said.

Tallahassee's competition, held at Florida State University, will be a challenge, Wickersheim said.

"They don't hand out ratings up there. It's very difficult, they are very demanding, and the kids know that," he said. "I told them even if we don't come back with a superior rating, we will all learn from the judges and from other bands."

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