Investigating 35 years of high school band history

Lisa S. (12)

From well-loved oldies to the latest songs, the high school band at the International School of the Sacred Heart covers it all, bringing music lovers together in their shows. In honor of Mr. Tootell retiring this year, this article would like to reflect on the high school band’s extensive history starting with the first ISSH band, Stage Fright.

Established in 1984, the first band at the International School of the Sacred Heart, Stage Fright, was founded by Mr. Tootell and a passionate group of musicians including a bassist, a guitarist, a drummer, a keyboardist, and some vocalists. The group first started practicing at Mr. Tootell’s house which was near the school gym. They started their band using an old bass guitar, an old electric guitar, some coffee tins for drums, Mr. Tootell’s very own electric keyboard which he had brought all the way from the UK, and a four-track cassette tape to record their songs. Later, a band room was established in room 301 and Mr. Tootell bought more equipment with his own money, including the first drum kit for the band.

For the next 35 years, Mr. Tootell continued to mentor generations of bands at the International School of the Sacred Heart. In that span of 35 years, Sacred Heart was able to see a huge variety of bands, some that played rock, some that played pop, and some that played R and B. In addition, as band became more popular as an activity in school, the band moved to their third band room, a bigger room in the math wing where the current band now practices.

Below are some of the most intriguing band names from the bands which Mr. Tootell produced during his time at Sacred Heart.

1984-1985  Stage Fright

1989-1990  Dangerous Liaisons

1990-1991  Shut Up and Listen (Middle School)

1992-1993  Free Bungee Jumping

1993-1994  Traumatic Joy

1995-1996  Black Chrysanthemums; Imaginary Earache (Middle School)

1996-1997  Eclipse; Mirage (Middle School)

1997-1998  Gravy; The Twilight Tones (Middle School)

1998-1999 Caffe Latte

1999-2000 No Clue (Middle School)

2000-2001 (Middle School)

2001-2002 Stevie’s Angels

2004-2005 Homie T and the Spinning Cactus

2006-2007 Breakfast on Pluto

2012-2013 Neon (Middle School)

The high school band created many exciting opportunities for the girls, one of which was to participate in a band competition called the Battle of the Bands which was run from 1986 to 2002 by Bruce Byant at the American School in Japan (ASIJ). The Battle of the Bands was a competition where six music producers judged around ten international schools’ bands. In 1991, a Sacred Heart Band called Girls Club won the Band Competition and one of the judges, who wanted to produce them, negotiated with Sony Records who gave them a contract. The Girls Club then went on an East Asian Tour and even did a TV interview in Taiwan. In addition to the Battle of the Bands, Sacred Heart Bands entered other TV competitions and played live at a radio station called InterFM for several years.

Even without the Battle of the Bands, the Sacred Heart Bands continued to develop their talents. The Sacred Heart bands hosted annual Christmas shows, January shows, and Family Festival performances challenge themselves in their music and to boost school spirit. This year, the High School Band, Genre Neutral, is trying new music techniques and incorporating new instruments to produce a variety of music. 

Not only did Mr. Tootell’s bands show students possibilities of taking a path in music, but also nurtured hidden talents and offered ways for both the students and the school community to come together and support each other.

Mr. Michael Robey, who has taught Biology at Sacred Heart for 33 years, said “I’ve really enjoyed listening to the high school band and seeing how students show unexpected talents. I particularly like how every year Mr. Tootell gets together a group of girls and forges a new band depending on their talents and interests.”

Sr. Shell Olson who has likewise taught Mathematics at Sacred Heart for 20 years said, “I think it is amazing to be at a school that includes MS and HS bands. I have taught at a number of schools in my life, and none has ever had a school-sponsored band at all, much less one of such quality. The bands offer another way for students to get involved and learn and contribute to school life.”

We would like to thank Mr. Tootell for everything he has given to the Sacred Heart community and hope that Sacred Heart’s band tradition will continue giving invaluable experiences to young girls after Mr. Tootell’s retirement.