Band success

St. John Neumann MS wins 2nd place in national comp

St. John Neumann Catholic School’s concert band recently placed second in the national Smoky Mountain Music Festival in Gatlinburg Convention Center Friday, April 22.

“I’m very proud,” SJNCS music and band teacher Shaun Schuetz said. “You know, I give them praise, and their director who helps me (Knoxville Catholic High School director) Jay Romines comes over and helps me with band every day. We’re both very proud of how they performed.

“Even one of the judges … always complements me when he comes to our concerts about the maturity of the group,” Schuetz added. “A big portion of the group is actually fifth and sixth grade.

“We usually get a lot of nice complements on how young the band is, but how mature the sound is.”

Also, Schuetz said every year student participation has grown in numbers, which “is amazing, considering the pandemic. We were meeting as smaller ensembles because we couldn’t meet as a full band to be safe for the kids.”

Fifty-one fifth- through eighth-grade students participated in the competition this year.

“I’ve been averaging about 40; this is my fifth year at here,” he said. “This has been the biggest group that I’ve had.”

The concert band held its spring concert in the school gymnasium Tuesday, May 3. That will be the music and band teacher’s swan song, as he is leaving SJN at the end of this school year.

Schuetz said the Smoky Mountain Music Festival is an annual competition occurring in April or May, depending on the scheduling.

“It involves groups from all over the U.S.,” he said. “For instance, this year there were some groups from Louisiana, Indiana, Florida, Georgia, so it’s not just Tennessee groups that can apply and register for the competition.

“I was amazed at seeing the variety of groups from around the Southeast that come to the competition,” Schuetz added.

“In addition to concert band, they also have jazz band competitions, choir competitions and orchestras. That’s a big draw … because, like, if a school is coming from out-of-state, they can bring their choir, their concert band or orchestra. They can bring all the performing ensembles, like a big spring trip.”

SJN’s band competed against one other band in its grade, but Schuetz said, “We were less than five points away from first place, and we actually scored higher than two other high school bands that performed that day.”