Performing Arts at SV: Proud of the Past, Excited to Move Forward with Mr. Bob Babick
Mr. Bob Babick, Seneca Valley Band Director
Bob Babick is a director of bands at Seneca Valley Senior High School, Intermediate High School, and Ryan Gloyer Middle School and has been a Seneca Valley teacher for 11 years. He is responsible for co-directing the Seneca Valley Concert Winds, Symphonic Band, 8th Grade Concert Band, 7th Grade Concert Band, Ryan Gloyer Middle School Jazz Ensemble, and Seneca Valley Marching Band. Mr. Babick also has served as a guest conductor and clinician throughout western Pennsylvania.
IN THIS EPISODE, WE WILL REVIEW:
FULL TRANSCRIPT (with timecode)
File Name: Voices E35 Bob Babick.mp3
File Length: 00:12:16
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Intro: Welcome to Voices, a podcast brought to you by the Seneca Valley School District.
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Jeff Krakoff: This is Jeff Krakoff, I'm with Bob Babick, director of bands. Welcome, Bob. Thanks for joining us.
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Bob Babick: Thanks, Jeff. Thanks for having me.
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Jeff Krakoff: So as director of bands, you're responsible for grades 7-12. How long has the band existed and what's the history and tradition?
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Bob Babick: Sure. So the Seneca Valley band's been here since the inception of the district in the early 1960s. I believe back then when we were formed, it was something like Southwest Butler County School District. And the big thing at that point in time was merging Evans City High School and Zelienople High School together. And both of those those schools had their own bands. So when I when I look back at the tradition and the history and what I have been told, I grew up in western PA, but I'm not from this area specifically.
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Bob Babick: Three names come to mind. There was a gentleman by the name of Bob Matchett, senior, and he was actually the first high school band director. He was he was taken to that position, I believe, about a month in after the merger had occurred. And it was his job. He was the boots on the ground trying to put Zelienople High School kids together and Evans City High School kids together. And then there were two elementary band directors, one by the name of Sue Van Arsdale and another by the name of Tom Anthony and those three names. When I think about what the history of this band program is, I can't think about or discuss the history without thinking about those three people.
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Bob Babick: Sue Van Arsdale and Tom Anthony were elementary band directors. And just like Bob Matchett, senior, they spent three decades plus dedicating their lives to this program from from at least Mr. Matchett from the very beginning. And, you know, you look at today and like longevity of careers in any aspect of our society. And it's just it becomes more and more rare each year. And I actually I think about you think about like the local team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and whether you're a Steelers fan or not, you know that it's a consistent team from year to year.
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Bob Babick: And you look at longevity of ownership in that team. You look at the fact that there was only three head coaches since the late nineteen sixties. So when you have people that choose to stay on a program like Mr. Matchett and Mrs. Van Arsdale and Mr. Anthony, you you end up with something that's very secure and builds a lot of pride.
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Jeff Krakoff: And so you are not the Cleveland Browns of Bands. So we have a lot of consistency at the top of the organization.
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Jeff Krakoff: So you mentioned the beginnings. That was really interesting. Obviously, the district has grown quite a bit. How many students participate in band today?
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Bob Babick: So I can tell you on our secondary campus, an average year, we have about four hundred students involved in the band program and that would be seven through twelve and four through six, about another four hundred.
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Jeff Krakoff: OK, are you seeing any trends, whether it's at the younger years or the the older grades have been pretty consistent in partcipating.
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Bob Babick: Yeah, I'd say it's consistent. Every every graduating class has their own personality and their own talents. Some numbers vary on on who is contained within a graduating class. But overall, it's been very consistent.
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Jeff Krakoff: OK, well, one thing we all know over the past year, the world has changed when it comes to how we practice, perform. Tell me how you've adjusted to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Bob Babick: Yeah, so it's definitely been a moving target throughout the year. We're so fortunate to have a large band staff. There's six of us districtwide. And the camaraderie and the friendship that exists between the six of us, I think is really something special. I can't speak to other big districts to say that it's like that everywhere, but I know how it feels here at Seneca so that that's been the first thing we've been able to lean on each other and help each other through this. There have been advances in technology that the district has has taken initiative on and that has really helped support us through online meetings being a lot easier, a lot more codified than they were during the original closure last spring.
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Bob Babick: So that's been a good thing. And then because we've been thrown into utilizing this technology, our students are maybe getting a different way of information being delivered to them. And we're starting to see that there are some of these technological things that we're doing here that students it's a it's a refreshing thing to them. And they they're they are beginning to find out that they have maybe other interests in, say, recording that maybe they never thought of.
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Bob Babick: And we never had the time in the past to really devote to that. So that's been one thing as far as what the optics of what things look like every day for us. We're a large district so our ensembles are large, so, you know, one of my first period groups is one of our high school groups, it's a nine through 12 band, there's over a hundred students, we have yet to actually be in the same room together since the beginning of the year. So there's there's three directors, including myself, that we rotate who's rehearsing which groups here on campus. And there's there's two of us every single day dedicated to rehearsing, one half in one room and the other half in another room to keep our kids spaced out and safe.
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Bob Babick: And that that's true of the ensembles across our district, really what we're what we're having to do right now.
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Jeff Krakoff: OK, so you mentioned the staff. You mentioned ensembles. For those that aren't familiar with the structure of a band, what other parts are there to a band?
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Bob Babick: So here at Seneca Valley, the ensembles are the bands themselves are the primary function of what we do.
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Bob Babick: So we have six band directors. We have four band directors here on the secondary campus, and we have two band directors to do the elementary level. Between the two of them, they work through four buildings. So one person's in two buildings, the other persons in two buildings. And starting in fourth grade, you can be part of band. And we have concert bands that exist in fourth, fifth and sixth. Some of those bands could be auditioned. We have some All-Star groups at the elementary level. For the most part, our elementary students are in bands that are based just basically on the class that they're in a fourth grade band, fifth grade band, sixth grade band.
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Bob Babick: Now, once our students hit seventh grade, they are also in a group with their classmates.
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Bob Babick: But then they also have the opportunity if they'd like to be in jazz ensemble now, they can audition for what we call our middle school jazz ensemble. And then once a student hits ninth grade, we have three concert bands and they are all mixed freshmen through senior. There is one group that you simply sign up for if you want to continue on a band. And there are two other groups that are audition groups and we also have two high school jazz ensembles to audition for. So as a side note at Seneca Valley, what's great if you're looking to be more competitive and that's something that drives you well, there's a place for you because now you can audition for these other groups if you're someone you love, the social aspect of the band, you've got friends in the band, you love playing your instrument.
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Bob Babick: You're not looking maybe for that extra pressure, extra competition. There's also plenty of ensembles to get involved. And you just sign up for our marching band is that way. We have two hundred kids in a typical year involved in our marching band. So there's a lot of opportunities. Plus there's one on one lesson instruction you can get here. There's a small group lessons. So there's there's really a lot of different avenues that a band student can take here at Seneca Valley.
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Jeff Krakoff: There's something for everybody.
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Jeff Krakoff: So is there an age, you know, so many parents think, well, gee, if my child doesn't get involved in whether it's the arts, sports, that they've been passed up because they didn't start young enough, what happens if somebody has never played an instrument and they decide this is something I want to try, regardless of what grade they're in, what are the opportunities? What do they do?
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Bob Babick: So that that question comes up every single year. So, you know, there's a lot of different paths you can take. The first place you want to start is calling the school building where your children are, where your children are going to school, or you can go the band has a website here on the secondary campus. It's www.Svband.Net. And if you head to that website, the contact information for the four directors here on the secondary campus is located and what we'll be able to point you in whichever direction you need to go.
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Bob Babick: So it's obviously easier the younger that a student is to get involved in the band. But I can tell you, Jeff, there's been plenty of times we've had students as as old as eighth graders, ninth graders, tenth graders that had no experience playing an instrument before, come to one of the directors and talk about joining. Usually what we recommend is pick your instrument that you're thinking about, first off. And sometimes we have one here at school that students can use. If we don't, you know, looking at a rental is a possibility.
00:09:15:03 - 00:09:41:17
Bob Babick: And then we sometimes recommend to the students, hey, why don't why don't you go to one of our private studios here in the Seneca Valley area? There's a number of them. And and take a half, you're taking you're kind of getting caught up where the people that are in your age group are going to be a brush up on with that instrument is. And then, you know, let's set up a time, listen to you play and we can we can discuss it further. So it might take a little bit more personal motivation at that point in time.
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Bob Babick: But the door is always open.
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Jeff Krakoff: As you mentioned before, if you want to be competitive, that's great. If you just want to learn bond with others, you've got that option, too. Now, what happens if if a student leaves the program at some point and they figure and they change their mind maybe in a year or two years they want to come back?
00:10:01:07 - 00:10:36:15
Bob Babick: How do they do that if they've already been involved in the program? It's usually a pretty easy way to get back in again. It's just simple communication. You know, we're so fortunate, there's so many ways to communicate with us. You go back to that that band website, svband.Net, the information is going to be right there. For a family that may have left the program. And, you know, I, I use the word family because that's that's one of the biggest things here that the directors, our directing staff tries to tout. It is a family and we'd always love to welcome our family members back for sure.
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Jeff Krakoff: All right. So as you look to the future, what plans do you have for next year and beyond with the band?
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Bob Babick: Well, I can tell you right now we like to see where things are moving here in the pandemic, it seems today on March 15th to be moving in a positive way. So I know personally, I feel as excited about next year as I did my first year teaching. I know myself, the rest of the directing staff. We are just so hungry to have our kids in front of us physically and be able to perform because that's what we do as musicians. We are performers and we don't want to be on computers all the time playing our instruments in rehearsals where no one is hearing us, we want to perform.
00:11:22:10 - 00:11:56:11
Bob Babick: So we're looking forward to that. I can tell you right now our mindset is we are trying to get back to as normal year as possible for next year. We're we're going to be discussing marching band camp dates here pretty soon. We're looking and excited about the football season coming up this year and what that could be. But we're also excited to incorporate some of this technology that we've been using this year. The recording that I mentioned a few minutes ago, items like that, we're we're excited to kind of amp up the program a little bit more with things that we had to do this year to survive.
00:11:56:29 - 00:12:08:08
Jeff Krakoff: I'm sure the kids and their families are also looking forward to getting back into full swing. Well, thanks. Thanks so much. That's Bob Babick. Thanks for joining us and have a good rest of the year.
00:12:08:23 - 00:12:09:15
Bob Babick: Thank you, Jeff.