By Sara Hollar, Olympia High School Intern to ThurstonTalk
Over the years Olympia High School has seen some electrifying entertainment but a consistent student favorite is the faculty band. Made up of OHS teachers and staff, the faculty band gives students a glimpse at the musical talents of the adults in their school. After taking a year hiatus, the band is now back with new and veteran musicians hoping for a future of exciting performances. They have the unique opportunity to show teenagers what it’s like to pursue a passion like music for a lifetime.
In 2006 now-retired OHS teacher Jeff Waddington first had the idea to perform at a school assembly. Waddington knew that art teacher Donna Andrews sang with a jazz band and asked her do vocals while he played the stand-up bass. The duet was very well-received but it was a one-time performance. Several years later the idea of a faculty band was resurrected by teacher Paul Rae. Again, the band was loved by students and staff alike but performances were sporadic.
However, in the 2014-2015 school year the band found its next leader in Vice-Principal Mick Hart. Hart was newly hired when OHS principal Matt Grant asked him to get the faculty band on its feet again. With the help of Rae, Hart gathered previous members as well as some new talent. The final product was Hart and Brian Wentz on guitar, Rae on saxophone, Andrews, Chris Sonnenstuhl and Dan Schwartz on vocals, Joe Dyvig on bass, Hallie Houge on keyboards and Luke Salme on drums. Ranging from school counselor to geometry teacher, the faculty band musicians take an interesting slice out of Olympia High School employees, all with a shared love of music.
Olympia High School is blessed with an unusual wealth of musical talent. Mick Hart has played with various bands for the past 43 years. He currently heads The Mick Hart Band, playing both original songs and covers. Paul Rae is a member of a professional band as well, playing saxophone in Nana’s Pant Suit for ten years. In addition, Donna Andrews remains the vocalist and percussionist for jazz trio The Committee. Teacher Hallie Houge, a renowned pianist, majored in music in college and graduated with a piano performance degree. Olympia High School’s orchestra teacher Joe Dyvig and choir teacher Dan Schwartz add to the faculty band’s ranks.
Having so much experience came in handy when faced with limited practice time before their first performance. The group picked the songs to cover with only a few weeks until their assembly performance. Their first choice, “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge was inspired by the OHS motto of “famOly” – the idea that OHS students are part of a family supporting one another.
“In the song we actually used the word ‘family.’ We picked that song thinking it would be a good one to just bring everybody together,” explains Mick Hart.
In addition to the 1979 favorite, the band picked “Counting Stars” by One Republic. They wanted a more popular, contemporary song that students would easily recognize. Most of the members had not played either song but learned both fairly easily after playing along to the originals a few times. Although these teachers wouldn’t recommend playing a show after only two rehearsals, they were ready at assembly time. Hart attributes much of that to the group’s musical strength.
The faculty band’s big show was a pep assembly last October. The theme of the assembly was tolerance, acceptance and community and the band intended to teach the students through music. Although the students began watching the performance from the gym bleachers, by the end of the first song the majority of the school, including many staff members, was crowded on the floor in front of the band. OHS junior Chris Minnich was one of the crowd on the floor and had a great time “moshing really hard.” The students weren’t the only one was having fun though. The faculty band members were also living it up on stage.
“The assembly was awesome, the crowd was really hopping. I’ve never played for a mosh pit before because I’m a classical pianist so it was fun seeing everyone get excited,” laughs Hallie Houge.
Paul Rae agreed, saying that the assembly was the highlight of playing with the faculty band. “It’s great to be able to show the kids that there’s something else we all enjoy doing and they come out and dance on the floor and do crazy stuff. You could tell Mr. Hart was in his element too, he didn’t want to stop playing – he was having too much fun.”
Hopefully Hart won’t have to wait too long for the band’s next performance as the entire school is eager for another appearance. Although there aren’t any solid plans yet, Principal Grant has encouraged the band to keep practicing for assemblies later in the year. OHS students are always excited to see the staff return to the stage.
“It’s a real change of pace from your average assembly. The unity of the teachers was very inspiring,” comments student Julia Fleener.
The band is also hoping to pair up with the Olympia High School Alumni Association for a night of entertainment and fundraising. They are brainstorming new ideas of how to include students, other community performers and audience participation.
Mostly, the band wants to keep playing and performing whenever they can. They know they will always have an enthusiastic audience waiting for them at school.
“The band provides a musical vehicle for faculty and students to connect. It allows our large and diverse student body to look beyond and even embrace their individual differences, put down their “cool” shields, share their common joy of music, and just have fun,” says Donna Andrews.