News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Outlaws hit high note in competition

Tyler Cranor, the Sisters School District’s band director, says that the current lineup of the Sisters High School Jazz Band is the “best–sounding band we’ve ever had.”

That’s not just a proud teacher’s opinion — it’s backed by the judges at last weekend’s Oregon Music Education Association (OMEA) State Jazz Competition held at Mt. Hood Community College, where the Outlaws took first-place honors in the 4A division.

“We got higher marks this year for the whole ensemble than we ever had,” said Cranor, who noted that the win is technically a repeat championship from the 2018-19 school year, because the pandemic derailed competition over the past two years.

The jazz ensemble served up some challenging work, and made it sing.

“We played four songs in four different styles,” Cranor said. “We did a kind of modern swing tune — most of it was five beats per measure instead of four, so it was a little unorthodox.”

“When I Fall in Love” featured a vocal solo by Bo Beaver. Nick Manley soloed on piano for a gospel ballad.

“We closed with a contemporary samba called ‘Coconut Champagne,’” Cranor said.

That was the ensemble’s closing piece for the 2018-19 championships.

“It’s the first piece I’ve ever repeated,” Cranor said. “That was, admittedly, a little selfish piece for me, because I wanted to hear that piece again for nostalgic purposes.”

Cranor has reason to feel nostalgic: After eight years leading the Outlaws band program, he’s leaving at the end of this year to take a position at South Fort Myers High School in Florida. The move came after his fiancé, Anyssa Bohanan, whom he met in Bend, took a position as an ABC News anchor in Fort Myers.

His successor has already been selected. She is Mikayla Golka, who is finishing her masters degree at the University of Oregon and has been student-teaching at Sheldon High School in Eugene. She has already been in town to meet the young musicians and begin the transition of the program.

Cranor expressed confidence that the culture of the band program in Sisters schools will continue under Golka’s leadership.

That culture he defined as recognizing that “it’s really fun to be good.”

Despite the multiple honors won by Sisters musicians over the years, the program has never really been about “winning.” That’s a byproduct of simply seeking to be good.

“Students here have never been overly competitive,” Cranor said. “The students here just really care about putting on a good show.”

The Sisters community will get to see one of those good shows in the band’s final performance of the year at Sisters High School auditorium Thursday, May 26, at 7 p.m.

Cranor acknowledged the support of the Sisters community, and organizations like the Sisters Folk Festival, which has brought professional touring musicians into the schools. That deepens the students’ appreciation of serious commitment to music.

“They get a really good look at the professional music world and what that looks like,” he said.

Cranor, who plays bass and tuba, will depart for Florida on June 26, sneaking in a couple of live performances before he goes — at Volcanic Theatre Pub in Bend on June 21 and at Angeline’s Bakery in Sisters on June 24.

Cranor leaves a strong program that weathered the extraordinary challenges posed by a pandemic that kept musicians apart. There are 32 participants in the SHS winds program and approximately 24 students in the Sisters Middle School band program.

“Both of those are essentially as large or larger than they were pre-COVID,” Cranor notes.

So, while a melancholy blue note hangs in the air with Cranor’s departure, he leaves a program that’s ready to swing into a new era.

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

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Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit www.frontierpartisans.com.

 

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