On April 28, approximately 60 middle schoolers representing Gaiser, Discovery, McLoughlin, Alki, Thomas Jefferson and Jason Lee middle schools and Vancouver School of Arts and Academics will take the stage for the annual VPS Middle School Honor Band Concert.
The concert presents a unique artistic opportunity for these musicians, who have rehearsed with their classmates from their respective schools but had only two chances to practice for the concert as an ensemble.
They’ll also be playing varied, advanced pieces: “Images of Ireland,” arranged by Brian Balmages; “The Red Balloon” by Anne McGinty; “Arabian Dances” by Roland Barrett; and “Electricity” by Daniel Bukvich. The songs were selected by and will be performed under the direction of some of the middle schoolers’ future music teachers: Craig Bunch, Hudson’s Bay High School; Dave Chartrey, Columbia River High School; Tim Heichelheim, Skyview High School; and Keith Norris, Fort Vancouver High School.
“It exposes the students to a different experience than they get every day,” said Chelsea Blackburn, band director at Gaiser and Alki middle schools.
That’s what makes the experience exciting, said flutist Jennifer Benitez, an eighth-grader at Discovery Middle School. “My favorite part of playing music is learning new music, because you get to learn all these different types of melodies and how different composers write different things. It’s really entertaining.”
Joining the middle schoolers onstage will be 60 fifth-graders, representing all VPS elementary schools, who participate in a before-school music program.
Strong music programs are important, said Alki Middle School’s Hayden James, an eighth-grader and percussionist. “It actually opens up part of your brain, helping you learn other things besides music, which is pretty cool.”