Reflections on the 2015-16 School Year

the band at work (during posture appreciation week)

the band at work (during posture appreciation week)

This is a post I started writing three years ago! At that time, I was finishing a year that included a few fun accomplishments:

  • My school hosted a small solo & ensemble festival for the third time

  • I directed and played in the pit for a great production of Guys and Dolls

  • Our jazz band won their class at the Eau Claire Jazz Festival

  • Our concert band finished the year having learned a new piece every week

As I think back on these accomplishments and others, it is clear that most of them would not have happened without sticking around at the same place. I just completed my 12th year at St. Croix Prep, and some amazing things have happened. It wouldn’t have been possible without supportive administration, colleagues, and families! Here is a short comparison of 2007 to 2019.

Then (2007)

  • Beginning band included 29 students in 5th and 6th grades

  • Our first instrument purchase was a xylophone, and the only instruments owned by the school were a banged up cornet and beginner level drum set

  • The band rehearsed in a gigantic church sanctuary and the lobby of an abandoned eye clinic

  • The band music library went from 0 pieces to 9, plus several pieces I wrote specifically for the bands that year

Now

  • The 5th-grade band of 2019–2020 has 40+ students

  • We have a full percussion section and are within about $25k of finishing a multi-year plan for a complete instrument inventory (at least for large instruments, like tuba, bassoon, etc.)

  • We have a band room!

  • There are over 300 titles in the Concert Band library, over 100 for jazz, plus a decent assortment of music for our pep band binders

There is more to reflect on later, but for now, I’m thankful for what we have achieved!

Replacing a Wenger Legacy Basic Acoustical Shell Panel

File under “don’t try this at home.”

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Last year, someone damage the top panel of one of our Wenger acoustical shells. It’s the panel that folds up and down and can be set at one of several angles, and my guess is that someone was too rough with it. The braces connecting the panel to the joint where it pivots were pushing into the panel itself and didn’t seem safe to use any more. So, this summer I called Wenger to ask about getting a replacement panel.

Although the shell has a label that says something like “Don’t try to remove or repair this panel!”, there were no other options for us. After the panel arrived, our facilities manager and I took a closer look at the shell to figure out how to safely remove the old panel and replace it with the new one.

First up, we had to remove the top panel. We tried to careful to relieve pressure on the gas lift supports, but it didn’t matter much. When the panel is folded down, they are close to being fully extended. While I wouldn’t want to take one in the eye, they didn’t seem to pose a lot of risk.

Second, we had to remove the pins that held the top panel to the middle panel at the hinge. A pair of pliers were helpful to grip the pin guide at each end. This is where things get a little dangerous and difficult. Without someone holding onto the top panel when you remove the pins, it will fall to the floor. Worse, if there isn’t anyone keeping tension on the crank on the back, the lift arm will shoot up to its maximum height very quickly when the top panel is removed. (We may have learned this the hard way). If you mess up this part, you have to put enough tension on the lift arm to allow someone to turn the hand crank slowly back to the bottom position.

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It probably requires 4-5 people to do the job. After the old panel was removed, we put the new one back, replacing the pins first and then reattaching the lift supports.

Valley Concert Winds

So far, my big musical project this summer has been starting a community band. It's called the Valley Concert Winds, and we are almost to our first performance. I am co-directing the group with fellow teacher Kyle Manley. It is pretty nice to have the chance both to play and conduct!

We weren't sure what sort of response we would get to the group. There are quite a few community bands in Minnesota, but the far east metro seemed like it could use a group. We had over 50 people register for the band with a great balance of instruments! I was also really pleased to have a wide range of ages represented in the group. It is neat to have intergenerational interaction. After four rehearsals, we have read a lot of music and are planning our first program, "A Taste of America," with the following works:

  • America the Beautiful – arr. Carmen Dragon
  • American Riversongs – Pierre La Plante
  • Fantasy on Yankee Doodle – Mark Williams
  • Black Granite III – James L. Hosay
  • On a Hymnsong of Philip Bliss – David Holsinger
  • Sweet Like That – Christopher Theofanidis
  • The Gladiator – John Philip Sousa
  • The Incredibles – arr. Jay Bocook

If you can make it, we'd love to see you at our first performance on July 13. Assuming the weather is good, we'll play at 6:30 pm on the terrace of the Stillwater Library. There's still time to sign up and join us for the second half of the summer, too! :)