Former Director of U.S. Coast Guard Band Directs SWHS Wind Ensemble For a Day

Jillian Thibodeau, Editor

On Tuesday, April 2nd the former director of the United States Coast Guard band came to South Windsor High School and directed SWHS’s Wind Ensemble for the day. Throughout the one hour rehearsal during third period, Buckley gave the group some advice to improve the group’s overall talent. With Buckley’s knowledge and experience having to do with directing premiere bands, he was able to help the group sound better than they did at the beginning of the rehearsal.

To begin, Buckley’s career within the Coast Guard band started in 1969 where he played trumpet in the band for six years straight. After these six years of being the principal trumpet player in the band, he became the band’s director and continued for twenty-nine more years. With twenty-nine years of conducting under his belt, he has become the longest conducting director of a band out of all of the other military band conductors in the United States. Now that he is no longer conducting the Coast Guard band, he has been composing, arranging, and publishing new music. Overall, Buckley’s experience with directing bands and composing allowed him to help Wind Ensemble with what they were struggling with in their music.

Buckley’s visit to South Windsor High School started off with the group playing through one of their competition pieces called ‘Second Connecticut Regiment’. For this song, Buckley simply advised the group to play exactly what was written in their music, as they had started playing some parts louder than what was on the page. However, it wasn’t long until Buckley grew tired of this march and told the group to play one of their other competition pieces, called ‘Pulse’. During this song, Buckley gave a lot more advice to the group. He still wanted the group to play what was on the page, but wanted more from them. Meaning that if they had a staccato underneath a note, then he wanted them to exaggerate it so that it could sound short and give the song more character. Additionally, Buckley mentioned that the members of Wind Ensemble should listen to each other more and not just play over the important parts. Not only was this the point he was trying to get at, but he wanted the group to connect more and come in together without having the director count them in.

This happened when he asked the french horns to play together and come in together at a certain part in the song ‘Pulse’. When he did this, the four horns laughed and so did Mr. Verrastro, but then they tried it. Of course, the first try was unsuccessful, but they figured out a way to make this work. First chair horn player, William Smith, breathed loudly so that the whole section could hear and they all came in. It took a few tries for the section to actually get it right, but it did end up working. The advice that Buckley gave them worked and he helped the group listen more and work together. Because of this and other things that Buckley did to help the group become better overall, members of South Windsor’s Wind Ensemble know that Buckley did a great job with helping them improve their competition pieces.

Junior, Ananya Srivatsav, simply stated that, “He made us listen to each other more and made us really pay attention to phrasing.” To add on to Srivatsav’s statement, Sophomore, Abigail Weiner said that, “He was very nice and he definitely knew his stuff. He was able to hear in between the lines of the music and he helped make our music better by explaining it to us in a really good way that we all understood. It was subtle but got to the point.” All things considered, the students in South Windsor’s Wind Ensemble really appreciate all of Buckley’s help and enjoyed his visit to South Windsor High School.