Moffat County band nails highest ranking ever at regional event

Andy Bockelman
The members of the Moffat County High School band perform during Senior Night for the MCHS basketball teams in February. Earlier this week, the ensemble performed in the Colorado Bandmasters Association Regional Qualifier, receiving a Superior rating for the first time since instructor John Bolton began with the school. The high honor places the group in good position to go to the state level.The band will also be performing a spring concert in April or May depending on if they qualify for state.
Andy Bockelman

The halls of Palisade High School heard lots of sounds Monday, but likely none were louder than the shrieks of joy from Moffat County kids reverberating off the walls as they got some of the best news of the year.

The Moffat County High School band recently received a Superior rating while in attendance at the Colorado Bandmasters Association Western Regional Qualifier. This is the first time the group and instructor John Bolton have achieved the high honor.

The MCHS teacher could tell something good was about to happen from the pre-performance warm-up as everything sounded ideal.

“The kids were on fire, they were stoked,” Bolton said.

The rating comes from a highly scrutinized analysis by members of CBA, who provide feedback for all who attend along with the assessment. A score of 12 is practically flawless — the lower the better — with MCHS garnering a 16 to qualify as Superior.

When Bolton revealed the plaque to his group, their reaction was uproarious to say the least.

“We had a universal scream of delight and satisfaction, so much so that we got shushed by other people in the foyer, which was pretty cool,” Bolton laughed.

The pieces that won the distinction included “Overture on an Early American Folk Hymn” by Claude T. Smith and Karl L. King’s “Peace Jubilee March.”

Bekah Bird and Valerie Moreno, both of whom play trombone in the band, said the chance to share the Superior mark was even better knowing the amount of work by Bolton.

“He’s worked with all of the kids so much, where soon enough the kids start taking hold of the program themselves and the upper kids are working with the younger kids,” said Bird, a junior.

Moreno, a freshman, said it was a “thrilling” day.

“It was just excitement rushing through my body, and I thought, ‘We did it!” she said.

Bolton said 2008 was the first time MCHS band was “brave enough” to go to a regional event, getting a plaque that merely read, “Participant.” However, the unfavorable rating was a wake-up call to students then, who only weeks later improved their play enough to be dubbed Superior at the CHSAA Festival.

In previous years at CBA, the band has come close to a Superior at CBA, often winding up in the second- or third-highest echelon.

“From that first year, we have come a long way,” he said, adding he intends to avoid Participant status in the future.

Note for note, the band’s Monday performance was the best Bolton has heard them play, he said, attributing the solid work to three things — practice, practice, practice.

Extra rehearsals in the evenings this school year have helped the ensemble sound sharper than ever, never falling flat.

“That’s on top of all the other things that these kids are doing, and we’ve had quite a few kids who were able to give us an extra hour-and-a-half a week to put this together,” Bolton said.

With the regional qualifier done, the likelihood of MCHS band attending state looks better than ever, and Bolton will likely learn if they made they cut Friday. If so, he may have to push back the date of the spring concert originally scheduled for mid-April.

“It’s not a bad problem to have,” he said.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or

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