Replacing a Wenger Legacy Basic Acoustical Shell Panel

File this 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! :)

Band Awards

This past spring, I had the opportunity to present the John Philip Sousa and Louis Armstrong awards for the first time. They have a long history and carry a lot of weight, but I think it is important to recognize other student achievements throughout the year. One other award I give to high school students is the "pen" award.

The award doesn't actually have a name, so the students and I refer to it by the prize each winner receives--a Pilot Varsity fountain pen. While they are advertised as being disposable, it's not too hard to refill them, and so I include a lifetime supply of ink (as long as the winners come back to me to get a refill). I make the award at the end of each quarter to one or two deserving students based on their contributions to the ensemble and department. I have awarded pens for

  • taking lessons and working really hard to get better
  • participating in and making significant contributions to the musical
  • giving up lunch time regularly to practice!
  • tutoring younger students
  • rehearsing and conducting a band

Students have appreciated receiving the pens, and quite a few have made comments about wanting to win one. It's not an expensive award (usually around $2/pen), but it is a great reward for the students who win one and a motivator for those who have not won yet.