School bands double up performances

The St. Anthony Village High School concert band (submitted photo)
The St. Anthony Village High School concert band (submitted photo)
The St. Anthony Middle School 8th grade band  (submitted photo)
The St. Anthony Middle School 8th grade band (submitted photo)

St. Anthony middle and high school bands to perform at Minnesota Music Educators Association event

Bands from St. Anthony Middle School and St. Anthony Village High School have beaten the odds, in tandem: both were selected to perform at the Minnesota

Music Educators Association Midwinter Clinic this week.

"In my 10 years here, I've never seen both a high school and middle school selected [to perform] from the same district," says Mary Schaefle, MMEA's executive director. "That's really rare."

The 8th grade band and the high school concert band will perform at the Minneapolis Convention Center in the main ballroom at 1 p.m. on the first day of the clinic, Thursday, Feb. 12.

First appearance in nine years

MMEA supports students and teachers in school music programs and holds professional development events, festivals and honor concerts for students. "We work to support school music throughout Minnesota and keep it strong," Schaefle says.

"Most school directors talk about this as one of their career pinnacles," Schaefle said, adding that in order to make it to the clinic they must have a "group of amazing kids working with them."

"It's a great honor, it's a nice opportunity that amounts to hard work, but successful hard work that's netted good results," Chris Ravndal, the music teacher who will lead the 57-student 8th grade band at the clinic, said.

"Part of the prestige and the reason this is such a big deal is because by far this is the most educated audience we play for," Andy Erickson, the music teacher who will lead the 68-student concert band, said, explaining the audience will be made up mostly of music educators, along with students' friends and family.

To apply to perform at the clinic, Erickson says the bands submitted a recording of two selections on which they were judged and that, before the submission deadline last May, he and the concert band spent a couple of days recording in the school auditorium.

Ravndal says he heard of Erickson's plan to apply for the clinic, and knowing he had a "strong band" on his hands, decided to "let the chips fall where they fall" and make a recording of his students as well.

The last time a band from either school performed at an MMEA event was Erickson's concert band in 2006. That year, he invited Ravndal along to guest-conduct a piece.

"Oh yeah, when we were selected in 2006, I called up one of my old professors at St. Olaf for a conducting lesson," Erickson remembers, adding that before that, the last time a St. Anthony school band performed at such an event was the late 1970s.

Experienced conductors

Erickson has taught in the St. Anthony-New Brighton District for 17 years and at the high school for 14. His father was also a high school band director. Erickson played saxophone and bassoon in his high school band days.

Ravndal, a trumpeter who splits his time between the middle school and Wilshire Park Elementary School, is in his 25th year at the schools. Both he and Erickson studied music education at St. Olaf College in Northfield; Ravndal has a master's degree in music education from the University of Minnesota.

Ravndal says his students understand the gravity of the performance and that it set a tone for the school year. "They get that it's important," he says. "I told them on day one that this year had a sense of purpose aimed towards this week."

A member of the concert band, 17-year-old Ian Bachmayer, a senior, says he didn't quite understand what the recording was for last year, but now he's definitely "hyped" when it comes to the performance this week. He says he plans to go into pre-med in college and continue playing in an ensemble.

"After we were accepted, I started to understand it and I felt very honored," Bachmayer says. "It's a once in a life time experience and I am overjoyed to be a part of it, and honored to a part of a band of this caliber."

MMEA Executive Director Schaefle says the achievement of both bands is a testament to the hard work of all involved, including those in support roles.

"Props to the students, directors, the parents, administrators and everybody," she says. "It takes support from everybody."

Following the clinic, Erickson says the concert band has a trip planned for March to visit the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to take a master class from the school's band director. "That'll be a nice way to relax, for the kids, not for me," he jokes.

Ravndal says he hopes to take the focus of the performance and channel similar energy into the rest of the school year with the 8th grade band.

"It's a great opportunity, it's great recognition, but after we're done we've still got work to do," he says. "We've had to ratchet things up ... and for rest of the year we get to bear that fruit."

Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7824. Follow him on Twitter @mmunzenrider.


If you go...

The St. Anthony Middle School 8th Grade Band and the St. Anthony Village High School band are scheduled to perform at 1 p.m. in the ballroom at the Minneapolis Convention Center on Feb. 12. Concert organizers say you can attend the concert for free, otherwise, day-of registration for non-music educators for all other Midwinter Clinic activities is $70. Both bands are performing more contemporary music by composers like Jared Spears and John Mackey. The 8th Grade Band will perform first. The convention center is located at 1301 2nd Ave. S in Downtown Minneapolis.


 

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