The 2019-2020 school year has not come to the conclusion we wanted. I write this on the evening that would have been our final concert for the year at the high school, marking the hard work of the students and the directors, the last performance for the seniors, and the musical conclusion to my first year as the Great Bend High School Director of Bands.
We can be remorseful about the music that wasn’t made, the time we didn’t spend together, and the growth that our program didn’t have. That is a valid loss, as music speaks to our soul, so a part of us was not complete.
As I reflect on what could have been – the spring jazz concert, solo and ensemble festival, and tonight’s concert – I am reminded of what was. The marching band performed in the Hoisington Labor Day Parade, and the State Fair Parade, Central States Marching Festival at K-State, and WAC Marching Festival, as well as home football games, and a very frigid community tour to honor our veterans on Veterans Day. We received an excellent mix of high ratings at the festivals and parades, and had a successful season. The jazz band and concert bands put on stellar performances in the fall semester, with packed houses of supportive audiences. The Jazz Band then headed to the loft to cheer on the wrestling and basketball teams, and to rock Panther Nation in the gym all season.
Some of our band students also took their musical talents on the road. Two students participated in the K-State All Star Marching Band, and performed at a K-State home football game. Three students attended the K-State Concert Band Clinic, and worked with renowned clinicians from all over the country. Three students were selected to the Southwest KMEA District Honor Jazz, and seven students were selected to the Southwest KMEA District Honor Band. Allen To (senior) made the State Band list as a mallet alternate. He participated in the State Band the last two years, something only a handful of students have done from western Kansas. August Siefkes (freshman) was selected for the State Orchestra as a mallet player. This was the first year that freshmen were allowed to audition for the student band. August also made the Kansas John Philip Sousa Honor Band. August and Sidney Cooper both were selected to the National John Philip Sousa Honor Band, although it has been postponed due to the coronavirus. Amy To, Allen To, Sidney Cooper and August Siefkes participated in the KSHSAA Piano Festival, earning I ratings at Regional and II ratings at State.
Before spring break, we had our in-house festival performance, which would end up being our last. We had guest adjudicators Dr. Jeff Jordan and Dr. Peter Lillpopp from Fort Hays State University adjudicate our performance and give a short clinic. The Freshman and Varsity bands both received overall I ratings. Unfortunately, the concert that would have accompanied the festival was canceled due to my personal health issues. I also had to miss a basketball game, and the band/orchestra Kansas City trip that week, but the students were able to go on the trip and had a great time. Luckily, I have amazing colleagues to cover classes, basketball games, and the trip while I was out of commission. Don Regehr, Isaac Enochs, Jennifer Demaree and our student teacher Rebecca Harmison covered everything seamlessly.
We didn’t have the ending we wanted, but the great band from Great Bend had a great year!
Having great students, great colleagues, like the above mentioned, as well as Alan Baxter and Donna Becker, supportive district and building administration, helpful band parents, and a wonderful community made my first year here in Great Bend a pleasure, and I look forward to next year with excitement. There have been many blessings and challenges with the shutdown, but we’ve all been able to focus on the small things, personal growth, and look toward the future. The same things are true for the band program. Positive things will happen as we move forward. We will grow in size and musicianship, we will adjust from what we learned in this process, we will focus on the important things, and we will have a good plan in place to kick the school year into gear and hit the ground marching. I look forward to making music with the Panther Bands and entertaining our audiences in a few months! We will see you soon!