Junior high bands play loud and proud

Seventh and eighth grade music students from across southwest Montana prepare for a sound check before the 2012 Junior High Band Festival on Friday evening in Sheridan. Photo by Ben Coulter

SHERIDAN – The Sheridan Elementary School gym was packed full with more young musicians than you can shake a drumstick at on Friday as students from across southwest Montana gathered for the 2012 Junior High Band Festival.

The sixth, seventh and eighth graders spent the day sharpening their talents and fine-tuning their instruments before a formal performance for friends and family on Friday evening. Music teachers from Drummond, Ennis, Philipsburg and Whitehall worked with the sixth graders on multiple musical pieces while seventh and eighth grade students worked with guest conductor Chris Kloker, band director at Beaverhead County High School in Dillon.

Kloker said that while it may be difficult for students from nine different schools to come together and make one idea out of everything that is going on, music is an invaluable life skill.

“The experience of music is important for students because number one it’s a cultural thing,” he said. “Every culture has music, every culture believes in music, every culture has its own identity in music.”

John Mason (left) of Deer Lodge and Wesley Armstrong of Twin Bridges prepare to take center stage with the percussion ensemble Friday evening during the 2012 Junior High Band Festival in Sheridan.

“It’s a study of every discipline in the school district. There is a physical aspect, there is a historical aspect, there is a language aspect, there is a math aspect and so music encompasses everything they are doing in the broad spectrum.” Kloker said. “I think its important that every student gets that chance to work to their potential at something that is bigger and greater than we as just human beings.”

The young performers came from Anaconda, Deer Lodge, Drummond, Ennis, Harrison, Philipsburg, Sheridan, Twin Bridges and Whitehall. Some students took full advantage of the day to further develop their abilities, while others were simply grateful for a field trip and a chance to dress up in shirt, tie and shiny dress shoes. Regardless of their agenda all the young musicians enjoyed the opportunity to play in front of an audience.

While it may have been a little chaotic with that many kids playing that many instruments, Kloker couldn’t deny that everyone had fun.

“The best part is how excited they were to work and how proud they were to have learned the music and being able to put it together and having fun being away from school for a day,” Kloker said.

The gymnasium bleachers slowly filled with friends, fans and family as the clock ticked down to show time, and even the second-floor balcony was full as people stood shoulder-to-shoulder hoping to catch a glimpse of the concert.

During a brief introduction before Friday evening’s concert Sheridan music teacher Heidi Bush commented on the process of students coming together and working to produce a musical performance.

“These kids did an amazing job today,” Bush said.  “It’s always amazing how they pull together for something like this: where they start in the morning to where they are tonight for the concert is quite a transformation.”

Following the concert the brilliant array of sound slowly dispersed into the night. Some students took their trumpets and made the short trip home to Twin Bridges. Others packed up their drum set and loaded the bus for the ride home for Drummond. As their taillights faded into the darkness the young musicians called it a day and made the long trip home, but the sound of what they worked to create together lingered for just a little longer.

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