A Fall Music Round-up

One by one, the instruments have disappeared from their usual resting place under and around our piano.

First went the sousaphone, then the string bass, and more recently, the frumpet. Later, a cello departed, followed by two French horns. Finally, only a viola, clarinet and bass guitar remain in that once-crowded spot, each awaiting its next call to action.

While the newspaper’s sports section has been full of information about fall prep athletics, it’s also the start of fall music season, as evidenced by the mass exodus of instruments and music folders from our house.

Earlier this week, I attended the annual meeting of WAMBO (Worthington Area Music Boosters Organization), the local music equivalent of the Trojan Sports Booster Club. It was an energizing get-together, with new president Lisa Brandt succeeding last year’s highly capable Paula Wolyniec in that leadership role.

Organizational details were not the meeting’s highlight, however. Rather, the enthusiasm of the District 518 music students and staff was what made the 60-minute retreat from the 90-degree heat worthwhile.

Worthington High School (WHS) sophomore violist Stephanie Flores attended to personally thank WAMBO members for their contribution to her July attendance at the International Music Camp near Dunseith, N.D. The dimpled brown-eyed girl cheerfully shared that the camp scholarship made possible the “seven best days of my life” and inspired a fresh dedication to her instrument and the WHS orchestra. At the camp, Flores met fellow student musicians from Austria, Honduras, the Bahamas–and North Dakota, among other exotic places.

Speaking of District 518 orchestra students, the new fourth and fifth grade orchestra instructor, Aimon Dwan, was also present to introduce herself. With 265 fourth through 12th grade students now actively engaged in learning string instruments (bass, violin, viola or cello) from either Ms. Dwan or Melanie Loy, spaces in District 518 buildings assigned to the orchestra program are daily overflowing with kids, cases and bows.

WHS band director Jon Loy revealed he’d had 10 walk-ons to his program when school began last week, necessitating a uniform scramble and some creative costuming for the marching band but filling out the award-winning troupe’s ranks to roughly 130. Mr. Loy approached WAMBO for financial assistance in outfitting the tuba section prior to the band’s first official performance in the King Turkey Day parade on Sept. 14, and the assembled voting members were happy to oblige. An additional 24 band uniforms will be needed for 2014-15, as well as a few more instruments to accommodate the growth.

In preparation for the busy marching band schedule, Mr. Loy has laid out a series of 7 a.m.  weekday rehearsals–with one lucky (and surely intrepid) varsity football-playing trumpeter, junior Trevor Wietzema, striving to fit in both an occasional early morning gridiron workout and the parade show rehearsal.

At Worthington Middle School (WMS), sixth through eighth grade band director Mike Andersen is readying 161 students for fall appearances, while fifth grade band instructor Jeanette Jenson is in the midst of teaching 61 beginning musicians the basics of breathing, technique and dynamics on the full spectrum of band instruments. Meanwhile, WMS choir director Cindy Anderson is leading close to 270 11- to 14-year-old vocalists, with an eye toward a late October singing debut.

WHS choir director Kerry Johnson reports that 125 ninth through 12th graders–47 in the Trojan Choir and 78 in the Concert Choir–have signed on as singers in her ensembles, ensuring a bountiful supply of skilled National Anthem performers at WHS sporting events this year (even if those vocalists sometimes do wear pink instead of black and red).

Josh Dale, the new District 518 activities director, was also on hand to hear about the range of music events under his purview, and he appeared duly impressed.

WAMBO exists to aid District 518’s music programs, using its funds to supplement purchases of instruments and uniforms, assist with travel costs, provide music camp scholarships and much more. Annual memberships in WAMBO–only $20 for individuals/families or $30 for businesses–fuel WAMBO’s engine, with donors recognized in concert programs throughout the year (and with a complimentary window cling). Gifts/memberships may be sent to WAMBO in care of WHS, 1211 Clary St., Worthington, MN 56187.

Let’s support both our student athletes AND our student musicians. And now I should probably vacuum under that piano while the instruments are otherwise occupied.