Most people who follow the Central Valley High School band program can tell you about the slew of awards and accolades that have been collected over the years.
This season alone, the marching band emerged as Northwest AAA champions and walked away with the first regional title earned by a CV ensemble on the other side of the Cascades since 1997.
Beyond the decorations, the program is known for promoting constructive traits like accountability, ambition and a good work ethic – characteristics that benefit students beyond music to areas like academics, family life and future goals.
Band followers will tell also tell you that Eric Parker is a major reason that band continues to thrive.
|Eric Parker has served as marching band director at Central Valley High School since 2007. The program now includes around 170 students.
“Eric always provides great opportunities for kids,” said Lori Wilson, president of the CV Band Boosters. “He’s always striving to be innovative and bring new ideas to the band program.”
Parker graduated from CVHS in 1996 and went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in music from Eastern Washington University and master’s in conduction from Sam Houston State. While at EWU, he began coaching the marching band and pep band at CV before taking over as marching band director in 2007.
Originally from southern California, Parker moved with his family to the Spokane area in 1990 and enrolled at Greenacres Middle School. After starting in a pilot band program at his previous school, Parker found the approach at Greenacres characterized by far more prestige and efficiency.
“I’ve never really felt like there is such a thing as a ‘band geek,’” Parker said. “I think being in band earns you respect.”
As a high school sophomore, Parker remembers being a “quiet, unpopular kid” who rarely spoke up in class. One day during band period, the process of picking a drum major had begun when one of Parker’s friends recommended that he throw his hat into the ring. Parker was less than enthused about the idea.
“I thought it was a class vote,” he said.
When it turned out the role was not based on a student election, Parker gave an impromptu speech about why he would appreciate the opportunity to be a drum major. He was selected shortly after.
“I just talked about how I wanted to help the band because it had helped me so much,” he said.
Parker said his tenure as drum major helped prepare him for the responsibilities of a band teacher in areas like conflict resolution and motivation.
Before Parker was hired as band director, he helped launch a second jazz band at CV, starting as a community band assistant coach in 2000. The school now offers Jazz 1 and 2, Symphonic Band, Concert Winds and Wind Ensemble with Parker teaching each one except for Jazz 1. Each program involves varying ability levels and time commitments, an approach that Parker said allows a greater number of students to participate.
“You could have someone in sports who still is part of the band,” he said.
As far as the stereotypical comparisons between athletics and music on a high school campus, Parker is not one to rant about the inequity in status and recognition. Instead, he expresses gratitude to those who support the program and talks about the awareness created when the marching band is featured at events like the halftime of a football game.
“I think the school – from the staff to the administration to the students – have pride in what we’re doing,” Parker said. “Band is a positive symbol for the school. I think we’ve always represented the school well.”
That representation includes sponsoring events like “I Am: Africa” in 2008 that raised funds for the Field Band Foundation, a South African-based program that teaches positive traits through music. Locally, CV musicians are also known for lending support. Last year, at a regional basketball tournament in the Tri-Cities, Parker and the band stepped in to provide music for a team whose band was not in attendance. The gesture of goodwill earned the group the 2010 Hoopfest Sportsmanship Award.
“Eric is a highly invested educator who really cares about that program,” said Jean Marczynski, executive director of Secondary Education with the Central Valley School District. “The standards he sets not only apply to band, they carry over to other areas where kids maintain that attitude of excellence.”