The band room will be a bit louder these days, as Tahlequah Middle School sixth-graders have been issued their instruments.
Tahlequah Public Schools Band Director Josh Allen said 85 sixth-graders are participating in the program, which is about the normal number. More students have enrolled in seventh- and eighth-grade band this year.
"We have a big shift in retention," said Allen. "There are a lot of choices in sixth grade. We used to start over 100 every year about 20 years ago."
This past spring, Allen took high school band members to the Tahlequah elementary schools to showcase the types of instruments. The new middle-schoolers had the options of playing flute, trumpet, trombone, clarinet, or percussion.
"For about a week, we let them try out the instruments and make basic sounds," said Allen.
The students got to pick their favorite instruments, as well as a secondary choices.
"Ninety-eight percent got their first choice," he said.
The students were to have their instruments for Friday's classes.
"This is probably my favorite time of the whole year, when the sixth-graders get their instruments," said Allen. "They're bouncing off the walls. It's a new chapter."
Those who were unable to purchase, rent, or borrow one will get assistance from the band program or community members willing to help out.
"We never turn a student away. No matter their financial situation they're in, there's a way for them to be in band," said Allen. "We do fundraising and have money stored away for that reason."
Along with instruments, there were books and accessories to pick up. The sixth-graders will take a spring trip, as well. The musicians will have a cookie dough fundraiser this fall, and a meat and cheese one in the spring.
For the winter and spring concerts, band members will be decked out in nice clothes, such as those they would wear to church or a wedding.
According to Allen, 99 percent of the students come in with zero experience.
"We have some who come in from schools that have a fifth-grade band, but it's rare," said Allen. "Those kids step up and become leaders."
High school band students, who have been selected to assist, help the sixth-graders during class. The instruments are split up during sessions, and there are two sixth-grade band classes.
Along with Allen, who handles trombone and flute, the instructors are Erin Epperly, trombone and percussion, and Courtney Clear, clarinet and trumpet. This is Epperly's and Clear's second year, and both came from the Oklahoma City area.
"It looks like a really good group of kids coming in," said Allen. "It's going to be a great year."