This spring, the seventh- and eighth-grade musicians did their own version of March Madness, except instead of competing on the hardwood, they sight-read musical lines.

Kara Bader, director of bands, and Chris Johnson, director of 7/8 choirs, were looking for creative ways to encourage independent musicianship in their ensembles. As part of their professional learning community (PLC) they made plans to hold this championship in March as both an educational exercise and also as a opportunity to have a bit of fun and good-natured competition.

“Although performing in front of their peers was tough for some of the students,” Johnson said, “most gave it an honest attempt, and — just like in the NCAA tourney — we were all surprised by some of the ‘sleepers’ who went deep into the competition, besting some of the early favorites.”

As a whole, the students’ levels of musicianship “certainly rose significantly,” said Bader.

This year’s winners are: Macy Friest, seventh-grade girls’ choir champion; Cody Hill, seventh-grade boys’ choir champion; Jarod Hart, eighth-grade mixed choir champion; and Cael Schreier, 7/8 band champion.

These four had a final showdown to see who would be crowned “Sight Reading Champion” and would take home the illustrious traveling trophy. After four well-played sets, Jarod Hart was named this year’s overall champion.

Bader and Johnson have already begun to plan for next year’s tournament. “Whatever we can do to promote music literacy, we’re very interested in doing those things,” Johnson said.