By Scott Graves
Pilot staff writer
The conductor raised the baton. The students raised their instruments. On the downstroke, the young musicians launched into one of the most dramatic parts of Stravinsky's "The Firebird."
After five or six measures, the teacher lowered the baton, cutting short the piece. He had the students play the section over and over and over again. Each time, the teacher offered his advice first to the clarinetists, then the trumpet players, then the tuba players. The students gave him their undivided attention.
This was no ordinary music teacher. It was Edward Higgins, Ph.D, a music professor and director of wind bands at Portland State University. As a favor to Brookings-Harbor High School Band Teacher Matt Power, Higgins drove six hours to Brookings this week to talk to and conduct students in the high school's wind ensemble and jazz band.
"It's a tremendous opportunity for the kids," Power said.
"Wow!" was all one student said as he packed up his instrument and headed off for another class.
"This was really inspiring," said another student.
For Higgins, to teach these students even if just for two hours is an opportunity to give something back.
"I was a high school band director for many years, and I was always grateful when a guest speaker would come and help teach my kids," Higgins said. "This is my chance to pay it back.
Last year, he visited 28 Oregon schools.
Higgins also oversees the Portland State University Honor Band program. Last week, six Brookings-Harbor High School musicians joined a group of students from throughout the state who were selected to play in the honor band.
The six students were Alan Freeman, Meredith Horel, Amanda Horel, Chris Nelson, Monica Mitchell and Brian Seamons. Power went with the students and, during that time, he established a relationship with Higgins, asking him to hold a two-hour music clinic back in Brookings. Higgins was more than happy to oblige.
During Wednesday's music clinic at Brookings-Harbor High School, Higgins talked with students about his life as a professional musician and music teacher. He talked about the importance of music and encouraged the students to continue with it professionally or as a hobby as they grow up.
"Music shouldn't end when high school does," he told them.
The young musicians played several sections of classical pieces, stopping to listen to Higgins' expert advice. At the end of the clinic, after letting the musicians play a piece almost in its entirety, he put the baton down.
"Let's just talk," he said. "We've talked about a lot of concepts this morning, perhaps too many. So I want you to write some of these concepts down and think about them. Memorize them. Use them to improve your music.
"I look forward to coming back next time and see how improved your are."