Band concert collaboration

Middle schools join Millard West band for winter performance

February 8, 2022


Photo by Brooke Sliva

Members of the wind ensemble perform in their middle school recruitment concert. The concert gave middle school musicians the opportunity to ask questions about high school band and connect with high school band members. “Playing with the middle schoolers was an amazing experience,” senior clarinetist Courtney Dice said. “It gave us an outlet to connect with the eighth graders and show them the fun opportunities that high school band provides. It also immersed the eighth graders into our band family which allows them to receive positive feedback about band or high school in general.”

The band held a concert on Tuesday, Feb. 1 in the auditorium. They were joined by the Millard West choir, Beadle Middle School band and Russell Middle School band.

The joint high school and middle school concert is held every year. The goal is to inspire future Wildcats to join the band once they come to Millard West. In the non-competitive, low pressure environment, experienced high school musicians assist and mentor the younger middle school musicians. The middle school musicians got a taste of what a high school concert looks like, and all involved groups showcased the pieces they’ve been rehearsing for the past couple months. 

The performance started out with two pieces done by the Russell and Beadle bands. Putting together the performance required months of planning and collaboration between the band directors at all schools involved. 

“[Millard West band director John Keith] gets in touch with us back in November and we decide what literature to play,” Russell Middle School band director George Parker said. “We prepared two songs that we’re going to be playing with the Millard West wind ensemble. It’s always a good recruitment tool. It’s one thing for an adult to say ‘come join Millard West band,’ but it’s another for peers to say ‘come join us.’”

After the middle school pieces, the Millard West band performed three songs on their own. The selections encompassed a variety of musical styles and cultural backgrounds. 

“The first one was ‘Galactic Fanfare,’” Keith said. “It was actually commissioned by a school down in Kansas, and that was a lot of fun, very much the style of Star Wars. The kids had a good time playing that one. The second one, ‘Crossing the Bosporus,’ had a totally different feel, a lot of Turkish styling in there with the different drums and everything so that was cool. The last one was called ‘Four: On a Remix of Beethoven,’ and they took Beethoven’s fifth classical theme and did a lot of variations on it.”

The band decided to extend the spirit of musical collaboration by inviting the choir to participate in the concert. Before the concert, the two groups got together to rehearse the song, “Be Thou my Vision,” a few times. The traditional Irish hymn allowed both the choir’s vocals and the band’s instrumentals to shine through. Then, for their third song of the night, they performed together. 

“I talked with the [choir] directors back in the fall about the possibility of doing that and they were excited about it as well,” Keith said. “We rehearsed the band part in class, the choir rehearsed the vocal parts in class, and then we got together about three different times to work out balance.”

The collaboration between the band and choir allowed for a more creative arrangement than the band would have been able to do without vocal accompaniment. It also showcased a spirit of unity within the music department. 

“The performance with the choir was incredible and something I will remember for a long time,” senior clarinetist Courtney Dice said. “The combination of the band and choir created a unique texture to the music that can’t be achieved with just one musical group. This was the first time that the band and choir had ever collaborated in a concert setting. The collaboration of the band and choir was important in showing that the music department works together instead of competing against each other.”

For the last two pieces of the night, the middle schoolers joined the high schoolers. This served not only as a recruitment tool for the high school band but also as a learning opportunity for the middle school musicians. 

“It was actually a lot of fun,” senior percussionist Jackson Schula said. “Playing with the middle schoolers gets a little bit stressful sometimes because you’re still learning in middle school, so all of the high schoolers are trying to help with that transition.”

The performance will inform middle school musicians as they make their decisions about what activities they want to participate in throughout high school, and it was a bonding experience for all music groups involved.

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