The band is back together at Capdau

The band is back together at Capdau
Posted on 12/10/2020

One of the highlights for nearly 120 Pierre Capdau students is that the Marching Band is once again back together. The musicians and auxiliary teams of majorettes, dancers, flag twirlers and more are practicing in preparation for when they will once again be able to perform at events. 

The band has been on hiatus since spring 2020 due to the pandemic, but just a few weeks ago they got the okay to start back up. Due to safety measures, limited number of band members are able to practice together at once, but that hasn’t lessened the excitement of the students.

“It’s a good thing,” said sixth grader Laria H., who has played trumpet in the Capdau band for 3 years. “I like to play music and be with my friends. It’s something to do after school so I don’t have to go home and watch TV.”

Felix LewisIt wasn’t just the students who were happy to be reunited. Capdau Music Teacher and Band Director Felix Lewis said he was just as excited to have his group back.

“Being a band director without a band is kind of like ‘What am I doing?’” he said. “When we finally got back together, it was like relief. I got to see the kids again, and we all got something back that we love.”

Though not everyone can be together at once right now due to gathering size restrictions, the students still say band practice is the highlight of their day.

“And it really is for me too,” Lewis said.

The band, made up of students in fourth through eighth grades, currently practices twice a week after school outside. Practice begins with warm up and song practice in socially distanced chairs, before they get up to perfect their marching and choreography skills. 

Capdau band“We were outside a lot before, but now that’s where we always are,” Lewis said. “I had to be creative on my end as far as communicating to them the music theory part outside to get them to tune into what I’m saying.”

The students said they don’t mind being outside; they just want to experience band with their friends.

“I like being able to be playing instead of just going home,” said sixth grader and French horn player Nicolious M., who eventually wants to follow in his band teacher’s footsteps and attend Southern University to major in music education. 

“I feel I should go there so I can be a band teacher too,” he said.

This year, he’s taking on a leadership role in the band while improving his instrument skills.

“I’m looking forward to being section leader, and I’m looking forward to being better at horn,” Nicolious said. “It’s one of my favorites. It’s unique in how it sounds.”

Like with Nicolious, Lewis encourages his musicians to have a goal, and he sets one for the band as a whole as well.

“I have a connection with these kids, and when we’re together we’re always working toward a goal,” he said.

Capdau bandLewis said that pre-pandemic, the majority of his teaching schedule was instrumental music but due to COVID restrictions, the curriculum shifted focus to music theory until recently. But getting the band back together isn’t just about making music.

“When it comes to band practice, I actually get to see the kids, and that’s our only time to interact with each other,” he said. “With us being in this setting, a lot of times I spend more time with them then they do with their other teachers. We connect on a different level, I like to think.”

In the past, the band participated in multiple live performances such as football games, Mardi Gras parades, and concerts throughout the city.

Trombone player and sixth grader James H. said being in the parades was great. 

 “My family is always there watching,” he said.

Lewis said one of the best things about joining the band besides the guarantee students are going to have fun is that at Capdau, students are going to get a complete musical education.

“Math, science social studies, music wraps all of that up together in one fun activity,” Lewis said. “As far as math: reading rhythms, breaking down rhythms, it’s division and addition. With science, it’s the thought process and the theory of producing a sound on an instrument. The physics of playing an instrument and the different combinations of fingers, that’s science. Social studies: the music comes from different places, and you’re going to learn a lot about that. It wraps up foreign languages in that too, because of lot of the music is in Latin, Italian, or other languages. You get exposed to all of that in band or music in general.”

Lewis tells his band members that “It’s going to be hard work, but it’s definitely going to pay off.” 

“By the time you reach the eighth grade and it’s time for you to go to high school, you’re going to have knowledge of everything you’re going to need to know to be functional in high school when you get in band,” he said.

Fourth grader Zykendrick H. said he’s up for the challenge. This is his first year in band and first year playing the trombone.

“The trombone is pretty fun because you get to blow and move the slider,” he said. “I just love it.”

Lewis hopes to instill lifelong skills and a deeper understanding of music in his band members before they move on to high school.

“They will walk away with hopefully a skill they will take with them for the rest of their life which is playing music, enjoying music, and experiencing music in a different way than they would if they weren’t in band,” he said. “But it’s also the friendship and the brotherhood or sisterhood that they get from being around all these 70 to 120 people that they are with all the time. They’re going to always remember these childhood friends for the rest of their life as well as just the experience of being a part of something. All of that wrapped up is definitely going to be an experience that they will remember for a long time.”

For now, the band will continue to practice, keep making memories and forging friendships, and working toward that goal of being performance-ready when the time comes.

“I can’t wait until COVID is over so we can show the world what we’re trying to do!” Lewis said.