Moffat County music students plan to stay in tune after band class
When the current Moffat County High School senior band students were in their freshman year, the future of the instrumental music program was sounding grim.
However, as they stuck with it and connected with a new head of the classes, they’re planning to carry music with them well past high school.
Not all of them will be pursuing music as a career, but graduate Paityn Cox will be going that direction.
Cox plans to attend Colorado Mesa University to study music education. She’ll likely attend some initial classes at Colorado Northwestern Community College, though the goal is to transfer to the larger school in Grand Junction in order to become a music instructor.
Much of that motivation comes from her current teacher, Lia Arnold, who’s overseen the MCHS and Craig Middle School band programs the past two years.
However, Cox initially had other plans for college.
“At the beginning of the year, I really wanted to study biology because science really inspires me and I love it,” Cox said.
Still, seeing Arnold’s dedication to her job helped guide her.
“Watching her and getting closer with her made me realize that music is one of my passions and I want to go to school for it,” Cox said. “I might take some science-heavy classes because it’s something I enjoy, but I will definitely be focusing more on music. I wanna be just like Miss A.”
Cox took up the flute as a sixth-grader at CMS. She joked that she chose the woodwind instrument because it “seemed simple and pretty.”
She initially wasn’t planning to continue band in high school, but missed the process and rejoined the program her second semester as a freshman.
Still, Cox and other music students had issues with a previous instructor whom they could tell wasn’t a good fit.
Cox and her fellow senior Arianna Crain said things picked up when they were juniors as Arnold started.
Crain, who plays the clarinet, said it took some time last year before she was optimistic.
“I didn’t have a lot of hope with it,” Crain said. “We got a new band director, and I thought, ‘this isn’t going to go anywhere.’ Miss Arnold really turned it around.”
Cox added that she has connected with Arnold more than arguably any other teacher at the school, both because the band instructor was friendly but also pushed her.
“She offered a friend and somebody I could trust and I could feel comfortable talking to her individually,” Cox said. “Her being such an open person is what makes her a good teacher. This senior year has been the one where I’ve worked the most and practiced at home just to get perfected on my music. Since I’m a senior, I figured I needed to step up and be the best when other people can’t.”
Cox said that Arnold had brought back band trips in order to get more Moffat County students to see what other programs are doing. Also, MCHS was the site of one of numerous music festivals hosted by Colorado High School Activities Association in April.
Several schools from around the region came to Craig to hone their skills.
“You had to do a sight-reading and play a piece of music you’d never done before, so that was really tough,” Cox said. “We also got critiqued on performance and the pieces of music we performed onstage. It was like a competition and a lesson and a critique all in one.”
Cox, Crain, and fellow seniors Tristan Malvitz, Garrett Mercer, Gage Jones and Athan Smith took on a leadership role this year in their respective sections.
That also helped foster Cox’s interest in becoming a music teacher, although another influence in her life didn’t hurt.
“My mom is a preschool teacher, and I’ve always just enjoyed being in a classroom and helping out wherever I can,” she said.
Cox chose CMU to stay close to home, but also because the school’s music program has some high-energy activities similar to those she’s had at MCHS.
“They have a pep band, and I love the idea of that, a lot of colleges do,” Cox said. “Playing during the football games will be fun. That’s something I like because you just get to sit there and bond and talk and play games and get close cheering with your band. It’s been one of my favorite things here.”
Crain also plans to attend Mesa, though she’ll lean toward early education rather than music.
“It was a really good experience, and I do plan on playing band in college, but I don’t know if it’s something that I want to study,” she said.
Crain added that she expects Arnold will be a strong teacher in the coming years for Moffat County.
“I’m excited to see what band will be like in the future,” she said. “I think everybody should do it.”
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