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What I Would Do

For months now, I've been thinking about what I would do if I were sitting on the Northampton Maintenance Fund board. First, an understatement: everyone knows that I have a fair amount of passion about the idea of socializing the cost of replacement and maintenance of certain homeowners fences. But there are other things that the board can do to improve things in this neighborhood.

Some background: I moved with my family to this area in August 2014, and rented a house on Wellington Court Blvd, not far north of Root Road. When we looked to buy our first home in Texas, we never looked at another neighborhood. We looked at a LOT of homes in Northampton. We looked at homes down by the golf course, at a home on the other side of Wellington Court, at homes on Creekview, at one house on Inway, at several homes on Fawnwood. We finally settled on our house here on Fawnwood, After we bought it, we did a complete renovation of the first floor, before moving in. We loved this old house, with a big lot, mature trees, and, we were told, "good bones." We were told by our new next door neighbors (original owners of their home) that our house used to be the drug house, and how happy they were that a family was moving in and looking to make the house our home.Out two sons, who initially opposed the move to Texas, thrived here, first at Hildebrandt, then at Klein Oak. My wife thrived, working as a teacher. And my then-consulting practice continued to flourish too. When we moved to Texas, I knew nobody in Texas, I had never been in Texas before I drove across the border in my aging Lincoln Navigator with a hound in the back. The neighbors on Wellington Court were welcoming, we made new friends, we loved the weather (even the summers) and I knew I never wanted to live anywhere else. It was a little like the HEB commercials: "we're not from Texas, but we got here as fast as we could."

So we settled in, got busy with work, life, social activities, church and continued improvements to our new home. I didn't know a lot about the NMF, nor the HOA, the MUD, Chaparral, or anything else. As I started to learn more, I thought, "can't things be better for all homeowners here?"

Then came the fence issue, starting in early 2016. I was actually at one of the board meetings to ask some questions about a deed restriction violation that we had received when I first heard about the movement to make all homeowners pay for certain fences. The board said at that meeting that fences were all private property and would be maintained via deed restrictions.

I didn't give that a lot more thought until I learned via social media that the board was actually considering taking over the replacement and permanent maintenance of certain homeowners' fences. I opposed that whole notion, having already heard the board state that they were private property.

We don't need to rehash the whole controversy for the purposes of this post, though.

What I did learn is that the NMF board could do certain things a lot better:

- I think the board should make the minutes of board meeting available to homeowners earlier, within days of the meeting taking place. I would pursue that immediately.

- I think the board should e-mail those minutes to homeowners as soon as they are approved. The board has many, if not most, homeowners' e-mail addresses, since they circulate details about upcoming meetings. Minutes could be mailed to homeowners for whom no e-mail address is on file. I would try to implement this policy immediately.

- I think the board could communicate effectively with homeowners by using mechanisms that their neighbors are already using, like Facebook.

- I think they board should broadcast meetings live via video feed. If the board adopted the measure listed directly above this, then Facebook Live is a completely viable option. 

Those are simple items that would let the neighbors know what the board is working on. And most importantly, it give the homeowners the information in real-time or near-real-time, which is a benefit to everyone who pays assessments to the NMF board.

What else would I do?

It is no secret that many homeowners have a deep, abiding distaste for Chaparral, the association's management company. I think two things should be done there:

1. Review the deed restriction notices that have been sent for the past, say, five years, along with their resolution. Is any section more heavily notified, and if so, why? There might be perfectly justifiable reasons, but at this time, nobody knows. Are the notices sent mainly for meaningful reasons, or are they "ticky-tack" little things that appear to bolster Chaparral's performance? Do we even need Chaparral to manage deed restriction notices, or can that be performed by an in-house committee of volunteer homeowners? This research could all be done without violating any homeowner’s privacy. The results of such a study should be shared with the community.

2. Review the Chaparral contract, and consider getting bids from other local management companies. Is Chaparral performing satisfactorily in the view of the board, and more importantly in the view of the homeowners that the board represents?

3. Review the books, via an independent audit: is the association spending money wisely, frugally, conservatively? Does the association really need to have three-quarter of a million dollars in the bank, while simultaneously raising every homeowner's assessment by 10% (the max permitted under our deed restrictions?

I think that whoever is sitting on the board on the morning of October 5th should put the "fence issue" aside. It is clear to me that very few homeowners want to take over the replacement and maintenance of these fences, whether one calls them "decorative fences" or "perimeter fences" or "developer installed fences" or "other peoples' private fences."

This past Sunday (september 16, 2018) we had a candidate forum, well-attended, and many wondered why the NMF board doesn't do this more often - why can't the board meet with the homeowners they represent more often, in an informal setting without Roberts Rules of Order, every once in a while? If I am elected to the NMF board, I will do exactly that - quarterly Town Hall meetings - and I hope other board members will join me. 

In addition: in the run-up to the October 4th special meeting, I and some other neighbors crowd-sourced some Northampton Homeowner Bill of Rights (pasted below). I don't think it is, or should be, hard for board members to treat someowners with decency and respect, whether the homeowner agrees with, or disagrees with, any action or decision by the board. I think every homeowner has a right to expect that.

I think that all homeowners in Northampton have a right to expect to be treated with decency and respect by Chaparral, or which ever management company works for the board, regardless of their length of residency. Homeowners that bought their house in August 2018 deserve the same respect and decency from Chaparral as one who bought their house in August 2001, or August 1980, or August 1970 (when my home was built).

So that's my platform. If you've read this far, I humbly and gand gratefully thank you. If you have any questions about my platform or my background, or if you just want to vent, or talk, you can reach me at john.p.needham@gmail.com. If you prefer to meet in person, e-mail me and we'll set up a time to do that.

John P. Needham

September 18, 2018

715AM

Spring, TX

Pasted below is the crowd-sourced Northampton Homeowner Bill of Rights:

The Northampton Homeowner Bill of Rights

1. Every homeowner deserves to be treated with respect and professionalism from the Northampton Maintenance Fund board members, and the hired management company staffers, regardless of the duration of their residency in our neighborhood.

2. All homeowners deserve honest and forthright disclosures from the Northampton Maintenance Fund board members about ongoing projects and initiatives, and those being considered by the board. 

3. Deed restriction enforcement should be fair, even and just, without regard to which section homeowners reside, and without regard to a homeowner's duration of ownership in the community.

4. Budgeting and allocation of homeowner assessments should be fiscally responsible and demonstrably for the benefit of whole community.

5. No homeowner should be forced to fund improvements on other residents' lots. 

6. When the board is considering large expenditures that were not disclosed in the annual budget, complete transparency is essential; when the board begins considering such expenditures outside the annual budget process, it will disclose those considerations to the community and will re-emphasize meeting dates so homeowners can attend meetings and provide feedback to the board before decisions are made.

7. All communications between board members, and between board members and management company personnel, including e-mails, written communication and minutes of non-public conversations, shall be made available to all members of the Association upon request, and at no charge to the Association members, when the communication involves Association business, except when those documents violate privacy rights of other homeowners (i.e. deed restriction violations).

8. All documents that have been prepared for the Northampton Maintenance Fund board, even in draft form, and including all legal advice and documents by, or to, the management company or board members, shall be made available to members of the Association upon request, and at no charge to Association members, except when those documents violate privacy rights of other homeowners (i.e. deed restriction violations).

9. All Homeowners shall be allowed to speak at Northampton Maintenance Fund board meetings on any agenda item being discussed during the meeting. Homeowner’s who cannot attend the meeting in person may submit their comments to any board member or to the property manager so long as it is delivered no later than 24 hours prior to the start of the meeting. Comments submitted shall be read by a board member prior to or during the live oral comment period on the topic which is the subject of the homeowner’s comments.

10. Homeowners have a right to expect the Northampton Maintenance Fund board members, lawyers and the property management company will protect private information like home address, phone numbers and private e-mail addresses, and to not distribute that private information in a retaliatory or other fashion.

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Mariachi Band - Final 2017/2018 Concert

Mariachi Band - Final 2017/2018 Concert

I am WAY behind in posting this, and I'm genuinely sorry about that! The Klein Oak Mariachi Band had their final concert of the 2017/18 school year back in May. It was really nice, held in the KOHS band hall, the ensemble members, their friends and families, a low-key, super-fun event.

Below are some videos of the show.

These talented and  motivated young musicians had a great year during the 2017/18 school year. Among other things, they were the first mariachi ensemble from from any Klein ISD school to qualify for, and participate in, the Texas State Mariachi Festival

It  would be hard to overstate how proud everyone is of these young musicians. For many of them, this was the final performance, as they have graduated and are moving on to college and other things. Those that remain are back-filling the ensemble and getting ready for another excellent year of mariachi music. We look forward to what the ensemble does in 2018/2018.

John Needham

Spring, TX

(posting from Chicago, IL)

June 26, 2018

Concerto Competition

I can't believe I neglected to post this. Apologies to Bailey for the delay. But...Bailey played in te Klein Oak HS Concerto Competition earlier this month. Below is his performance (a 6:47 video). 

I guess by now it won't surprise anyone to learn: we thought Bailey did great, we're very proud of his growth this year. He really has developed this skill in an amazing way. 

Anyway, here is the video - the hilarious part is when he introduced himself as "John Needham" which is generally how he is known at school, even though we still call him Bailey here at home:

Uploaded by John Needham on 2018-05-05.

John P. Needham

May 23, 2017

Spring, TX

16

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16

Cody-2003

This young man turns 16 today. 

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Cody has *always* been a happy kid. Now he's a terrific young man. He will always be our youngest son. But we are super-proud of the young man he has become, and the man he is growing into.

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He still has this sly grin.

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Carolyn and I were talking with Cody last night about his old pictures and he mentioned the ones where he was playing t-ball with a full-leg cast, so I'm adding that below.

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Happy Birthday to our 16-year old!

John P. Needham

May 1, 2018

Spring, TX

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Klein Oak Wind Ensemble Performs at Festival Hall

The Klein Oak Wind Ensemble performed at the Round Top Festival Institute on Friday, April 27th. What a fabulous facility, that was literally in the middle of nowhere, about an hour and a half west of Houston, TX, in Round Top (population: 90). This band of super-talented young musicians practiced for hours, and played really well.

The ensemble opened with Santa Fe Saga (10:46 video):

Klein Oak Wind Ensemble at the Round Top Festival Institute. April 27, 2018, under the direction of Todd Clearwater.

Then they played Academic Overture (11:07 video):

Klein Oak Wind Ensemble at the Round Top Festival Institute. April 27, 2018, under the direction of Todd Clearwater.

The ensemble closed with North Wind March (2:33 video):

Klein Oak Wind Ensemble at the Round Top Festival Institute. April 27, 2018, under the direction of Todd Clearwater.

All the parents, obviously, are very proud of these talented and dedicated young musicians. 

John P. Needham

Spring, TX

April 29, 2018

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Klein Oak Wind Ensemble Concert - February 27, 2018

I am a little late getting this out, but back on February 28th, the Klein Oak Wind Ensemble gave a concert at Klein Oak Auditorium. Below are two videos from the performance.

The first song was Northwind March (2:29 video):

Northwind, a march, performed by the Klein Oak Wind Ensemble, directed by Todd Clearwater, February 27, 2018 at Klein Oak High School Auditorium.

Next the ensemble played a much longer piece, Lincolnshire Posey. The video is 16 minutes long. (I did a pretty lousy job on this video, to be honest; quite shakey. Apologies for that.) Look for Cody on marimba around the 15-minute mark.

Lincolnshire Posey, performed by the Klein Oak Wind Ensemble, directed by Todd Clearwater, February 27, 2018 at Klein Oak High School Auditorium.

John P. Needham

March 11, 2018

Spring, TX

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Mariachi Ole!

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Mariachi Ole!

C'mon, you knew this was coming, right? After all the still pictures from this weekend's Texas State Mariachi Festival, you knew there would be some videos of the Klein Oak High School Mariachi Band, right? I didn't take these videos, but another person did, and gave me permission to post them to You Tube. 

KOHS Mariachi Band was the first school from the whole Klein school district to qualify for the state mariachi festival. While a lot of schools were playing new, modern takes on mariachi music, with lots of stagecraft, KOHS Mariachi Band just played traditional mariachi music with little fanfare. It was a really well-received performance, to be sure. Take a look at how the crowd responded. They opened with Guadalajara:

 

Guadalajara, performed by the Klein Oak High School Mariachi Band, February 23, 2018 at the Texas State High School Mariachi Festival in Edinburgh, TX.

The next song they performed was El Rey. This is where the audience really started to respond.

 

El Rey, performed by the Klein Oak High School Mariachi Band, February 23, 2018 at the Texas State High School Mariachi Festival in Edinburgh, TX.

The band closed their set with No Me Se Rajar, which inspired the audience even more.

 

No Me Se Rajar, performed by the Klein Oak High School Mariachi Band, February 23, 2018 at the Texas State High School Mariachi Festival in Edinburgh, TX.

This was a genuinely extraordinary experience for these talented and hard-working young musicians. They walked off the stage with their feet barely touching the ground. 

And we parents were all profoundly proud of these kids.

John P. Needham

February 27, 2018

Spring, TX

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"Hey Porter" and other songs...

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"Hey Porter" and other songs...

Starting with the original source, here, which indicates that the material posted below is public domain available.

In the 1950s, Johnny Cash appeared on radio programs in the south, and some of the recordings from these shows are now available in "bootleg" form.

I am uploading a zip file of the radio programs at that link. The file is a .rar file which opens via WinZip. The embeded radio programs are .flac files, which you can open with many standard audio players like VLC. I used Groove Music to play them on my laptop computer. 

I'd recommend downloading and listening on a computer and not your phone - the file to be downloaded is roughly 190MB, and unzipping and playing on a computer is easier than on a phone. For me, at least.

If you like Johnny Cash as much as I do, these historical recordings will make you smile. Some of the coolest things are that, in the 1950s, when artists were hosted on radio programs like Country Style USA, the artists and the host were the ones who read the radio commercials, so you'll hear Johnny Cash, here, promoting savings bonds, and U.S. Army recruitment programs. These radio programs are a lot of fun to listen to, and they have some historical significance to Johnny Cash fans. 

Here is what is included in the programs: Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two (Luther Perkins and Marshall Grant) on Country Style USA, from November, 1956 (includes Hey Porter and I Walk the Line); another episode of the Country Style USA radio program from 1956 (date unknown, includes Folsom Prison and Get Rhythm), and an episode of the Guest Star radio program from June, 1959 (includes Don't Take Your Guns to Town).

Again: if you're a Johnny Cash fan like I am, you should give these radio programs a listen. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

John P. Needham

January 4, 2018

Spring, TX

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Marching Season Wrap-Up, 2017

Just a couple of images from the final football game of the 2017 season. With marching season winding down, and contests all in the rear-view mirror, and the final game the day after Thanksgiving in College Station, the number of band kids who showed up to play was pretty small. Bailey and Cody were both there. I got this image of them in the stands, Cody in the foreground on bass drum, Bailey behind him on trumpet.

 Cody in front on bass drum, Bailey behind on trumpet

Cody in front on bass drum, Bailey behind on trumpet

Cody had wrapped his drum sticks up in red tape so they looked like candy canes, and he also had our Elf on the Shelf, Bob, mounted on the top of his drum:

 Cody on bass drum, accompanied by Bob The Elf.

Cody on bass drum, accompanied by Bob The Elf.

 Bob The Elf and Cody's drum sticks

Bob The Elf and Cody's drum sticks

One last picture of Bailey:

 Bailey on trumpet

Bailey on trumpet

That's all for now.

John P. Needham

November 28, 2017

Spring, TX

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Bangarang!

Please allow me this "proud band dad" moment.

Since the beginning of August, Bailey and Cody and the rest of Klein Oak High School's marching band have been practicing, working really hard, on the 2017 competition show. They practiced in heat, they practiced many mornings, may late nights, weekends, after school, at football games, in competitions. 

Cody is on bass-4 bass drum; Bailey plays trumpet.

This weekend, all their hard work paid off. The band participated in Bands of America super-regional competition in San Antonio. It was far and away their best show of the season. 

The competition at the super-regional is very steep; some 75 bands competed in prelims over two days, and only 114 made the finals Saturday night. Klein  Oak Band did not make the finals, unfortunately. But that doesn't not take away from their achievement. This year's show, called Bangarang, was terrific, and the kids performed spectacularly in the prelims.

Another of the band parents was able to record the show, and uploaded it to You Tubs. I am embedding the video below. Take a look at let me know what you think!

 

We are very proud of our kids and all the band members; other parents I spoke with feel exactly the same way. These kids all worked so hard, for so many hours, over months, and for the show to come together this well, at this competition, was really special to see.

John P. Needham

November 5, 2017

Spring, TX

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Homecoming, 2017 (Cody)

I've been away from this blog for far, far, too long. Apologies for that little hiatus!

Last weekend Cody went to Homecoming at his high-school. Here are a few images.

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If you want, you can find the full set here in Flickr.

John P. Needham

November 5, 2017

Spring, TX

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Arriba!!

Last night the Klein Oak High School Mariachi Band had their first-ever concert and fundraiser at the Klein Oak Auditorium. This Mariachi Band is a student-run band seeking to qualify for the Texas UIL competition in the coming school year. 

I am amazed by how good these student musicians sound! I think you might be, too. The played eight songs, the videos are below.

First: Relampago:

De Colores:

Las Chiapanecas:

La Bamba:

Marieta:

Cielito Lindo:

El Caballito:

Finally, Guadalajara:

It was very cool to see this band, and our son playing with his band mates last night. 

John P. Needham

June 1, 2017

6:45AM

Spring, TX

Klein Oak Masterworks Concert - May 22, 2017

Earlier this month, the top performers from Klein Oak's band, choir and orchestra performed their annual Masterworks performance. I recorded the whole concert, but many of the pieces are covered by copyright protections so I'm not posting those here (or to You Tube). 

Here are two pieces that I can post. First, the Klein Oak Wind Ensemble opened the concert with this piece, a stunning 14-minute piece that I know these young musicians worked so hard on. This is a 14-minute video and Bailey is performing on trumpet.

Next is the Klein Oak Choir. This is a four-minute+ video.

That's all I'm going to share from this night, since I am pretty sure the next five pieces that were performed, jointly, by the Wind Ensemble, the Choir and the Orchestra, are all covered by copyright protection held by the composer. 

The concert was genuinely amazing, these young performers worked for months to perfect these pieces and they all did a fabulous job.

John P. Needham

May 29, 2017

1:25PM

Spring, TX

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Piano Recital - Bailey, May 2017

This one made Carolyn cry. I unfortunately had to miss it, traveling for business, but Carolyn recorded it for me, and here is the video (six minute video).

John Needham

Spring, TX

May 29, 2017

10:20AM

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Cody Needham: Rock Star

Our son Cody has been taking guitar lessons at School or Rock in Champions Forest this year. He is getting the best guitar instruction there that he's ever gotten since he started playing guitar years ago.

Yesterday he played in School of Rock's teen band at a local bar/restaurant, District 249 up in Tomball. The band is called Grunge. Carolyn and I attended, as did Bailey, and also our great friends the Linmans. Grunge has been working so hard, practicing hours on end, together and on their own, for months, and they played seven songs yesterday. They were really terrific. 

Below are the videos of the band's performance. Stick around to the end, or scroll down there, because Cody had a solo on Zombie by The Cranberries. 

 

John P. Needham

May 14, 2017

10:43AM

Spring, TX

Klein Oak Mariachi Band

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Klein Oak Mariachi Band

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The Klein Oak HS Mariachi Band - a student run organization, mind you - played in a concert with the KO Jazz Band last night, and I was fortunate enough to attend both, since Bailey plays with the Mariachi Band.

The concert was outstanding. The Jazz Band played a half-dozen terrific pieces, I was amazed at the talent and the obvious hard work of these student musicians.

Since Bailey plays with the Mariachi Band, on a lark I videoed the two pieces with my new phone, and uploaded those to my You Tube channel. Those two videos are below.

First the Mariachi Band played La Bamba:

Klein Oak Mariachi Band, La Bamba, May 8, 2017

The second piece they played was Guadalajara:

Klein Oak Mariachi Band, Guadalajara, May 8, 2017

I think they were terrific. It was a lot of fun watching them play.

John P. Needham

May 9, 2017

8AM

Spring, TX

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Fifteen

This young man turns 15 today. 

Next up will be drivers ed, a driving permit, and eventually, driving all on his own. He is super excited for that.

And Carolyn, Bailey and I could not be more proud of this young man, and the man he is growing into. 

John P. Needham

May 1, 2017

Spring, TX

Sixteen

Sixteen

Wow. John Bailey Needham turned sixteen yesterday. Naturally, that means it is time to post some new images.

Here he is at sixteen. 

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I stiched a few images together to post to FB so here are those now too.

 

And this one...

 

Finally, this last image - Carolyn made her chocolate chip cheesecake with caramel topping. This was at the request of the birthday boy.

 

Bay had a good day. But us, his parents, wow. We could not be more proud of the young man that Bailey has become, and continues to grow into. 

John P. Needham

Spring, TX

January 13, 2017

Region Band Concert - December 10, 2016

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Region Band Concert - December 10, 2016

As many already know from my excessive social media sharing, our 15YO high-school sophomore, Bailey, was awarded a chair in the wind ensemble in the Region 9 (Texas) band. (This was following two rounds of Region Band auditions.)

Last Friday night they had a three hour practice, followed by 8+ hours on Saturday. Aftter just that practice, the band had a concert last Saturday night. I'm not sure I can adequately express how proud we were of Bailey - and of his bandmates here. They learned these five songs in just a few hours of practice, then played a concert at Klein Forest High School. 

The band performed under the direction of Richard Floyd, in his 53rd year of music direction, and who is currently the director of the Austin Symphonic Band.

The first piece they played was This Broad Earth by Steven Bryant (4:47 video):

The 2016 Region Band (Region 9) Wind Ensemble, conducted by Richard Floyd. "This Broad Earth" by Steven Bryant. Performed December 10, 2016 at Klein Forest High School.

Then Mr. Floyd spoke for a few minutes (2:58):

The 2016 Region Band (Region 9) Wind Ensemble, conducted by Richard Floyd. This is comments by the conductor Richard Floyd. Performed December 10, 2016 at Klein Forest High School.

The next piece was Sleep, by Eric Whitacre (4:51):

The 2016 Region Band (Region 9) Wind Ensemble, conducted by Richard Floyd. "Sleep" by Eric Whitacre. Performed December 10, 2016 at Klein Forest High School.

Then the band played Dancing on Water, by Frank Ticheli (8:57). This was a piece Bailey really enjoyed learning and playing.

The 2016 Region Band (Region 9) Wind Ensemble, conducted by Richard Floyd. "Dancing on Water" by Frank Ticheli. Performed December 10, 2016 at Klein Forest High School.

Then the band played a set from Leonard Bernstein (and other composers, 4:27):

The 2016 Region Band (Region 9) Wind Ensemble, conducted by Richard Floyd. "The Bernstein Set" Bernstein/Krance & Bernstein/Sweeney. Performed December 10, 2016 at Klein Forest High School.

They closed with a song called Zing by Scott McAllister (6:06):

The 2016 Region Band (Region 9) Wind Ensemble, conducted by Richard Floyd. "Zing" by Scott McAllister. Performed December 10, 2016 at Klein Forest High School.

John P. Needham

Spring, TX

December 13, 2016

6:06AM

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Klein Oak Band - Winter Concerts, December 6, 2016

Cody (freshman) is in Concert Band this year. Here is one of the pieces that the Concert Band played at the winter concert. (This is the only piece Cody played in.) Cody on percussion.

Hypnotic Fireflies, performed by Klein Oak Concert Band, December 6, 2016.

Bailey (sophomore) is in Klein Oak's Wind Ensemble. Here is their set from the winter concert. The set includes two songs - A Holiday Rhapsody, and Sleigh Ride - and between the song is the band director Mr. Clearwater's comments, and the student recognition. (Students were recognized for Region Band auditions, for getting a chair in Region Band, and for qualifying for the Area Band auditions.)

Both pieces, A Holiday Rhapsody and Sleigh Ride, along with Mr. Clearwater's comments and the student recognition.

John P. Needham

December 8, 2016

6:20AM

Spring, TX

 

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