RUIDOSO – School music in Lincoln County is truly a family business.
Just ask Gary Shaver, who’s brother Duwayne is the music director at Capitan High School.
Gary has the same position at Ruidoso schools, and is loving it.
“It’s a little crazy, but that’s how it is,” Gary said.
Like his brother, Shaver is not just the band director, he also leads the choir program. And it’s not just at the high school, he also leads things at Ruidoso Middle School.
That’s a lot of kids, a lot of musical groups, a lot of music in one day, and Shaver said it’s all worth it.
He’s been in Ruidoso for 11 years now, having come here from Truth Or Consequences, where he was the band director for Hot Springs High. This after studying music – like his brother – at Western New Mexico University.
When he first got to Ruidoso, Gary was the head band director, then was at the middle school.
A succession of band and choir directors came and went before Shaver found himself in charge of everything.
There’s more than a few kids that pull double duty in music, too.
“I love when I get that,” Shaver said. “They end up reading music and hearing it better.”
Right now, the band is in the middle of marching season, appearing at football games and the Aspenfest parade, Oct. 7.
They’re also getting ready for the Pageant of the Bands on Oct. 21 at Albuquerque’s Wilson Stadium.
That’s one of three band competitions throughout the year, including the Zia Festival in Albuquerque and the Southwest Band Festival in Las Cruces.
Shaver said he likes the Pageant of the Bands because it’s more welcoming to small bands like Ruidoso’s.
“In my experience, the smaller bands have a tougher time. If you stand still on the field, you get counted off,” Shaver said. “The bigger bands can just move some of them, but smaller bands, everyone has to move, all the time.
“They have to have music memorized, learn the steps, learn where to start and stop. There’s a lot of work and a lot of pressure,” he added. “Sometimes we’ll have eighth graders in those groups, and they really have to scramble.”
Speaking of middle school, Shaver said almost all the kids he gets in sixth and seventh grade have never played an instrument before joining.
“We start these middle school kids from scratch. Some we have to teach to read music, then find them an instrument they can play and afford,” he said. “To see them go from that to graduation is really neat. You grow real close to them in those six years.”
Choir and concerts
The marching season is actually quite short, and Shaver has his hands full with concert band and choir once things get much too cold outside.
In addition to the concerts he leads, Shaver also gets his kids entered into solo and ensemble competitions. Choir students performed in a festival at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, Oct. 5, bringing home several 1 scores, the best possible on a scale of 1 to 5.
Warriors earning 1’s were Ashtin Bright, Conner Nickoli, Alma Rodriguez, Amaris Montes, Makaila VanSlyke and Jazmine Nava.
Those receiving 2s were Kiara Armstong and Ben Knox – their first time singing in front of a judge – and David Marshall. A small ensemble of singers also received a 2.
Then, of course, there’s All-State, that chance to join a massive choir or band with the best high school musicians from around the state for a concert at UNM’s Popejoy Hall in Albuquerque.
Choir auditions are this week – Oct. 16 in Las Cruces and Oct. 20 in Portales – while band auditions are in November.
Which location Shaver will go to depends on the schedule of his students. Many of them are in other extracurricular activities.
“I’m hoping for about 12-13 try out for choir, and about the same for band,” Shaver said. “There’s no telling how many will make it.”
Shaver said he pushes the kids toward this type of excellence because he wasn’t pushed to do so himself when he was in school in Albuquerque.
“I never made All-State as a high school student, so it’s gratifying to see kids I teach get in there,” Shaver said. “I put a lot of emphasis on it.”