Middle school band concert doesn’t disappoint

Published 5:45 am Saturday, December 23, 2017

Now that winter is rearing its icy head, I am not one of those people who wax nostalgic about fireplaces and heating their homes with open fireplaces or wood/coal burning stoves or furnaces.

Last Monday evening Loretta and I were among the several hundred parents and grandparents who attended the B. Michael Caudill Middle School Band’s Holiday Concert at EKU’s Center for the Performing Arts located on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University.

I am not sure what we were expecting but I can tell you, for sure, that what we experienced was far, far better and so much more impressive that words fall short in describing the difference. Suffice to say that I can’t recall the last time I was as emotionally moved by a live musical performance as I was by these sixth, seventh and eighth grade student musicians.

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The entire “band” would not have fit onto the stage at one time. Instead, there were three bands; one for each grade level. Assuming my math is close to accurate, there were 106 members of the sixth grade band, 70 seventh, and 74 eighth-graders or more than 240 all told. The sixth-graders as a group made for a very full stage.

Prior to this exposure to music in our public schools at these grade levels, my mindset was on the most basic of beginner instruments — flute phones and the like and, perhaps, some beginner keyboards and the like.

I was not expecting the entire realm of real, adult, brass, woodwinds and percussion instruments one would expect to see in a high school or college concert band.

But there he was among the sixth grade band, our grandson, Braden Ochs, lugging a tenor saxophone more than half as big as he is and playing it far more proficiently than I would have come close to imagining.

As far as I know, Braden had never even touched a saxophone before last August. I’m betting that the flute, trumpet, clarinet, oboe, trombone, French horn, tuba, percussion and all the instrument players I’m leaving out also had their first meaningful contact with the instrument of their choice less than five months ago. If any of them had any contact with these very real instruments while they were in elementary school they sure kept quiet about it.

But there they were, up on the stage of one of the largest indoor concert venues (over 2,000 seats) in the state where you normally expect to see entertainers like The Doobie Brothers, The Oak Ridge Boys, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, some big city orchestra or name your favorite concert entertainer. I would have thought the kids would consider this very heady stuff but they did not act like it was anything outside the ordinary.

These kids looked like they belonged there. Decked out in semi-formal black pants, white shirts and blouses, they looked as professional as an adult orchestra, and, at least to my ear, the music they made was far more impressive. I expect adults and even high school age bands to sound reasonably proficient. But I was not expecting to hear middle school kids perform, darn near flawlessly, relatively complex and sophisticated arrangements of traditional holiday music anywhere near the level we experienced last Monday evening.

I am embarrassed to admit that I failed to get the names of the adult teachers and directors who have taught these children to play very real music on well over a dozen individual instruments and orchestrate it so incredibly well in such a short period of time but my hat is off to them. I am almost as impressed with the kid’s level of confidence in themselves as I am with the music and that, too, reflects very highly on their adult leadership. If anyone among the performers was nervous, it certainly did not show.

So, I’m hooked. If your middle school has a band and has a concert scheduled between now through Christmas of 2018, please drop me a note. If middle school kids all over are performing like the ones at Caudill, I could become a big time fan.

Reach longtime Enterprise columnist Ike Adams at ikeadams@aol.com or on Facebook or 249 Charlie Brown Road, Paint Lick, KY 40461.