Moffat County band program reaches new heights

Lauren Blair
The Northwest Colorado Honor Band rehearses at Craig Middle School Thursday under the direction of University of Wyoming professor and band director Robert Belser in preparation for their performance Friday evening. The band was comprised of 51 eighth-graders from 10 schools in the Northwest Colorado region, including Hayden, Steamboat Springs and Soroco, who were selected through an audition process. Eight CMS students participated in the Honor Band.
Lauren Blair

— A string of successes has meant a very busy spring for Moffat County’s middle and high school bands, as well as for band director John Bolton.

Moffat County School District is home to a thriving band program at Craig Middle School, as well as Moffat County High School’s concert band, marching band, jazz band and orchestra.

The MCHS band program has celebrated several extraordinary successes this year, including sending the 63-person concert band to the Colorado Bandmasters Association state band festival April 13 in Fort Collins for the first time in recent history.

The band achieved a “superior” rating at the regional qualifier in March.

“I know Mr. Bolton has been working really hard to get a ‘superior’ at the CBA festival. We usually got a ‘2,’ or an ‘excellent’ rating, but this year we got a ‘1,’” said MCHS senior trumpet player Ryan Secules. “Everyone was super excited. He showed us the plaque and we were cheering.”

One of the band program’s stars, Secules also qualified individually for three all-state music events, including band, jazz band and orchestra, a triple feat that Bolton said has never happened in his 10-year tenure. Secules’ twin sister, Laura Secules, a French horn-player, qualified for both all-state band and orchestra, while trombone-player Veronica Mead rounded out the MCHS trifecta for the all-state band event, held in Greeley April 9 to 11.

“This is definitely the most that’s happened musically with our band in a year,” Secules said. “I’m gonna miss it for sure, it’s definitely been… the best part of my high school experience.”

Also on the move, the 20-student MCHS Jazz Band attended the Greeley Jazz Festival — the nation’s largest jazz fest, according to Bolton — April 17 to 19. The players performed before judges at the festival, in addition to attending workshops and performances from leading jazz educators and musicians, such as the Village Vanguard Orchestra from New York City.

On Thursday, the jazz band will perform in Steamboat Springs with the Brooklyn-based Metta Quintet through the JazzReach program and Strings Music Festival. The performance is the culmination of a two-year program entailing classroom visits and workshops for the students. Tickets are free and can be found at

Not to be left out of the action, Craig Middle School played host this week to the Northwest Colorado regional honor band through the Colorado Music Educators Association. The band is comprised of 51 select eighth-grade musicians from 10 schools around the Western Slope, who rehearsed all day Thursday and Friday under the direction of Robert Belser, professor and director of band at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

Eight CMS students participated in the honor band, which performed for the community Friday night.

“I think it changes a lot of us knowing that the band director from the University of Wyoming came down and took the time to teach us stuff and thinks we can play this hard stuff,” said eighth-grade bass clarinet player Hali Reyes. “I think we act a lot more mature than what we really are.”

One of the secondary goals of the program is to get kids thinking about going to college, Bolton said.

“The background message is… you could go to college and get a degree and play in this director’s band,” Bolton said. “They get to play at a super high level with some great people and have a great time.”

For Bolton, all the successes are exciting, but the end of the school year means saying goodbye to graduating seniors.

“I miss my older kids, their exuberance, their professionalism and their love of the art. It’s great to revel in it, but it’s bittersweet they’re going away,” Bolton said. “With this kind of activity we’ve had this year, the kids have set a new bar.”

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Craig and Moffat County make the Craig Press’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.