With all of the recent attention of the Woodrow Wilson Wildcat Band and their recent top honors making them the top DISD Band one has to wonder where all these talented musicians come from? One really has to look no further than next door at J.L Long Middle School and the JL Long Buccaneer Band!
The leader of that band is none other than Ms. Caitlin Schmidt! With the arrival of her new assistant band director, Ms. Andrea Bangolan a first-year teacher and recent graduate of Texas A&M Commerce, both of them have a very busy day dealing with nearly 300 band students every day. Most of students in the 6th grade beginner band have never used an instrument before and this is their first exposure to playing music. A typical day for them “officially” starts at 7:15 AM where they offer tutoring and practice to all students and goes on throughout the day all the way to 2:53 PM with a short break and then staying for after school rehearsal and practice to 4:30 PM and sometimes later.
Ms. Caitln Schmidt is an Austin, Texas native and holds a Bachelors of Music from University of North Texas. Besides being the Director of Bands at J.L. Long Middle school, Ms. Schmidt is an active performer as a concert saxophonist and freelance musician in the D/FW area. Beginning her ninth year of teaching, seven of those years at J.L. Long Middle School. She began her journey with the Buccaneers Band under the guidance of, then Director of Bands for J.L. Long, Jordan Smith. Ms. Schmidt says that she learned a lot from Mr. Smith and he personally hand-picked her as his replacement when he left for new opportunities out of state.
Several of her students had this to say about Mrs. Schmidt: “…she is so kind and patient with us” , “Ms. Schmidt is so talented…” , “…she is making me work hard and learn about my instrument”! It is words like these and her unassuming laid-back style that allows her to be approachable to her students. Schmidt says that about 90% of the students in band really do want to learn and only about 10% think it’s a blow off class at the beginning of the year. She also says that that 10% slowly diminishes over the year as the students learn.
Excellent communication between Chris Evetts, Director of Bands at Woodrow Wilson High School and Zach Montez, Percussion Director at Woodrow allows there to be smooth transition from the Buccaneer Band to the Wildcat Band. Both Mr. Evetts and Mr. Montez come to J.L. Long regularly to work with the Buc Band students The band directors meet regularly and have 6 week check-ins to see how performance is going and assist each other. As the Woodrow Wildcat Band has grown, the eighth grade Buccaneer Band members now have to audition to see if they will be on the Varsity of JV band in high school. Ms. Schmidt says that the vertical alignment that Long and Wilson have is a feeder pattern model for DISD.
When asked about her favorite time of the year, Ms. Schmidt quickly answered “The Annual Sandy Lake Trip in Spring”. For the beginner J.L. Long Buccaneer Band members this is their first “real” competition outside of school grounds and UIL and many of the 6th graders get especially nervous. She says that many of them do much better than expected and come back beaming with confidence and ready to start the next year fresh!
Currently, the J.L. Long and Woodrow campus is partially under construction with both schools using temporary facilities for their bands as the original band halls have either been demolished or retrofitted for other used during the bond construction. The J.L. Long Band Hall is expected to be completed by January 2019 and both Ms. Schmidt and the students could not be more excited. Schmidt says that based on the plans, the new band hall will be state of the art with great acoustics, lockers for the students, storage space and even their own percussion room!
The Bucs Band, Band directors and Buccaneers Band Boosters are busily preparing for their 5th annual fundraiser being held at the Granada Theater 3524 Greenville Ave Dallas, TX 75206 this coming Sunday, October 7th! The doors will open at 12 PM – 3:30 PM and will feature an assortment of local bands including The Stilts, 40 Acre Mule, Club Wood and special performances by the Buc Drumline other special guests! Tickets are still available and this is a family friendly event. Students $5, Adults $10, and $25 Family pass (good for 6 people). This fundraiser allows the Bucs Band Boosters to assist students with scholarships for private lessons, purchase new instruments, repair existing instruments and do other items that sometimes DISD will not cover. If you are unable to attend this year or are a Buccaneer Alum and live out of the area, you can still donate by going to the Bucs Band Website donation page https://cschmidt75.wixsite.com/bucband . The J. L. Long Buccaneer Band is a 501C-3 organization and donations are tax deductible.