SMSA began having members of the student band provide music at Masses two and a half years ago. Music is a big part of the school's curriculum: In fourth grade, students must choose between joining the band or taking public speaking as an extracurricular activity.
Julia Keshmiri, an eighth-grader who plays the clarinet, says she chose the band because "I like listening to music, so I thought it would be cool to make the music."
From one to four students from the band are encouraged to play at Mass each week. The ensemble includes students in all grades and changes each week, with flute, trumpet, saxophone, tuba and percussion players taking a turn.
Marianne Facklam, SMSA's band teacher, said that having the students play at Masses drives them to rehearse.
"It's a real motivator," said the teacher. "If kids don't have a reason to practice, they may not want to; but if they're playing for an audience, then they know to practice."
Julia has played her clarinet at Friday-morning Masses five or six times already, performing songs like "You Raise Me Up" and "Danny Boy."
While she said it can be a little scary, performing is mostly enjoyable.
"I think it's really fun, and I like playing in front of people," she told The Evangelist. "It's a little unnerving because you want to do good, because you're in Mass [and] in front of everybody and some people you don't know, but it's mostly just fun."
The school band holds one lesson and one band rehearsal each week, and requires students to practice 100 minutes per week at home. Ms. Facklam said she often asks the students who will be playing at the Friday Mass to practice in front of the band during a rehearsal or come in early on Friday before the Mass to get extra practice.
"It's just a great way for kids to get to play in front of others," said the teacher.