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December 22, 2014

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Centennial High School Performing Arts Department is finalist for grant

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Heather Cory

Choir director Karen Miskell runs through holiday tunes with the Centennial choir as it practices for some upcoming performances. Centennial’s Performing Arts Department is a finalist in receiving a much-needed grant from the Grammy Foundation.

Centennial High School Choir

Centennial choir director Karen Miskell goes over music for some upcoming performances.  Centennial's Performing Arts Department is a finalist in receiving a much-needed grant from the Grammy Foundation.  Launch slideshow »

The continual success of the Centennial High School Performing Arts Department is manifested by being selected as a 2009 GRAMMY Signature School Finalist.

Every year the GRAMMY Foundation awards about 25 grants from $1,000 to $10,000 to public schools. This year, after sending in an initial application, Centennial became a finalist and now needs to send in sound recordings from the musical departments before possibly receiving an award.

If successful, the money would be used to give students personal one-on-one training in their specified elective.

Centennial’s marching band’s accomplishments this year started with a successful band camp in August that had 100 percent attendance and hard-working practices, said Mitch Gabel, director of bands.

Gabel’s and the students’ vision of having one of the most successful marching bands in the country couldn’t have been accomplished without the support of the administration, Gabel said.

Through fundraising and support from administration, the band was able to bring in two color guard specialists, a percussion specialist, a visual aid instructor and a brass instructor.

“The biggest reason for our success has been being able to bring in extra staff,” Gabel said. “It’s pretty common protocol for successful bands across the country. In communicating to our administration, I explained that if we want to be nationally recognized, this is necessary.”

Competitions began Oct. 4 at the Henderson Band Festival at Basic High School with 11 other high schools. Overall, the marching band took second place.

“That’s really fantastic for us considering we’ve been really growing the program within the last three years,” Gabel said. “Before this we placed more in the middle like fifth or sixth place. For us, this was a huge pay-off.”

The band continued to compete at the Oct. 11 Showdown at Silverado High School competition, where it came in third place.

But the greatest accomplishment came when the band came in first place at the Half Time Show and Review at Sam Boyd Stadium on Nov. 6.

“The kids loved it,” Gabel said. “The hard work really paid off.”

The choir program has not started competing this year, but because of the success in the past couple of years, the choir is confident it will continue the tradition, said Karen Miskell, director of choirs.

The top singing group, the Chambers Singers, have traveled around the country, including New York and Florida, as they are invited to sing at festivals. In 2006, the group was invited to sing at the American Choral Directors Association National Conference in Miami. The group also sings locally at events around the city.

“The group we have here is full of amazing individuals who are extremely intelligent with a strong music base and willing to try new and different things,” Miskell said. “We try different types of music: classical, contemporary, jazz, pop and musical theater.”

The orchestra is experiencing similar success. Two years ago, the orchestra was invited to perform at a Heritage Festival in London, and last year the orchestra performed at Carnegie Hall. The reason behind the success of the orchestra is simple: “hard work and some really good kids,” said Terry Hill, director of orchestras.

This year, because of tough economic times, the orchestra will just be performing at Disneyland to make it easier on the parents, Hill said.

The school will know if it will receive a grant next year.

Jenny Davis can be reached at 990-8921 or [email protected].

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