The Sisters High School Jazz Band brought home first-place honors from the Jazz Band State Finals held at Mt. Hood Community College on May 18.

Band Director Tyler Cranor recognizes a significant accomplishment for the young musicians.

“That is the first state title since 2003 and the first since we were a 4A school,” he said.

Bands at the festival are judged by a three-judge panel on musicality, quality of sound and stage presence. The band played three pieces: a shuffle tune titled “Out of the Doghouse”; an original arrangement of Duke Ellington’s, “Concerto for Cootie,” and a contemporary Latin number, “Coconut Champagne.”

“The whole set was good,” bassman Oscar Rhett told The Nugget.

The band wasn’t too keyed up about the competition.

“I felt confident,” said tenor sax player Josh Marion. “I felt like we were going to play good.”

Alto sax player Simon Rhett concurred.

“We just wanted to go and play our best,” he said.

And they did.

“I was far more confident at the state competition than at the regional competition,” Cranor said. “I felt after we played that it was our best performance of the year.”

And that is what really matters most in a subjectively judged competition. The placings take care of themselves.

The first-place effort was not Sisters’ only strong showing in band festivals last month. The wind ensemble turned in a very respectable performance at the Wind Ensemble Festival at Oregon State University on May 8, and took seventh place.

The festival success reflects Cranor’s success in building a program over his five-year tenure in Sisters.

“Really, it’s just consistency,” he told The Nugget. “Little by little each year, more kids buy into it.”

He also cited the importance of community support as a key factor, noting that Sisters Folk Festival, the school administration and his colleague Rick Johnson, who runs the vocal music program all support the music program in all three schools as a whole — a remarkable feature of a small school district.

“It just creates that culture of success,” he said. “You just don’t find that that often in those small areas.”

The Wind Ensemble has 24 musicians; the Jazz Band 15. And they’re young. Cranor said that 70 percent of the musicians in the program are freshmen and sophomores. His goal is to build the Wind Ensemble to 30 to 40 players.

The success the bands earned last month will likely accelerate the building of the program.

“I knew we’d get to this point,” Cranor said. “I have confidence in what I’m doing as a teacher and I have confidence in the passion these kids have. I thought we were a year or two away — just because of the youth of the band.”

The passion and commitment of the musicians is on clear display. They will continue practicing and playing in various combinations while school is out, and several of the musicians told The Nugget that they plan to attend band camps this summer.