Incoming 9th grade students sometimes find entering high school a daunting experience. The Pioneer Bands provide a unique opportunity for our freshmen and their families to experience a smaller learning community within the larger Pioneer High School environment. With almost 300 students enrolled in the Pioneer Bands program, divided into five classroom ensembles, incoming freshmen will likely be rehearsing with upper classmen and will also be participating in concert, social and fundraising activities with band musicians and band families from all grade levels and experiences.

One of the first steps in the transition to high school band is to attend the Incoming 9th Grade Band Family Orientation held in March. Sponsored by the Pioneer Band Association and hosted by Director of Bands, David A. Leach, this event is held in Pioneer's Schreiber Auditorium immediately following the annual Sunday afternoon Bands in Review Concert featuring the district's middle and high schools. Families are provided with access to the Pioneer Bands Handbook, the directors give a brief outline of what to expect, and experienced parents and students are on hand to answer questions, give advice and welcome all of our incoming 9th Grade band families. If you haven't already done so, be sure to complete and submit the online Incoming Pioneer Band Student form.

The next step is the Audition process. Middle school band directors are aware of the transitional issues their band students face and work hard to prepare their musicians. Middle School band directors provide the audition music to students planning to continue their band experiences after 8th grade and work with them to practice it properly. In late March or early April of the 8th grade year, Director of Bands David A. Leach visits each middle school classroom to conduct individual interviews and auditions. This gives students the chance to ask questions and demonstrate their musical skills. In late spring, student audition results are posted and students will be informed as to which Pioneer ensemble they have been assigned. Student 9th grade course selections can then be completed, confirmed or changed with Pioneer counselors as appropriate. Private school students should contact Mr. Leach directly to set up an audition at Pioneer.

With the announcement of the audition results, incoming 9th grade students also receive materials to register for Pioneer's Band Camp, held each August at the Interlochen Arts Camp. Band Camp is a great opportunity for incoming 9th graders to jump-start their transition to high school and the Pioneer band program. Band Camp is open to all Pioneer band students and introduces both concert and marching fundamentals in a fun and friendly environment. In one week, incoming 9th graders prepare for a Sunday concert alongside upper classmen, as for the only time during the school year every Pioneer Band Camp musician performs together as one ensemble. Students also drill marching fundamentals; even though many 9th grade students will not be a part of the marching band during their first year of high school, this opportunity is invaluable in building their spirit of ensemble work and in preparing them for their marching years ahead.

While Band Camp is a required activity for Symphony and Concert Band students, and not required for Varsity Band students, if space is available it is highly encouraged. Participation in Band Camp is an ideal way for all band students to make new friends each and every year. Freshman students spend their week at Band Camp living in a cabin with an equal number of sophomores, juniors and seniors from all the bands. By the time they come back to Ann Arbor and school begins, it is unlikely that any freshman band student who attended camp will walk into a Pioneer classroom and not see a student he or she has already met. The annual Band Picnic follows in early fall, and right away freshman students feel at home in the band program at Pioneer High School.