Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It's OK, I'm With the Band

Having wrestled with (and won, at least for now) a fallen 8-foot Christmas tree Tuesday morning, a strong desire for a holiday pick-me-up was certainly understandable. 
Thankfully, I live and have a student taught in, the Pottstown School District.

It being Tuesday, that meant my wife and I were among the hundreds of happy parents, grandparents, uncles, nephews, cousins and assorted supporters who stuffed ourselves into Pottstown High School's Davenport auditorium last night to enjoy the district's Holiday Band Concert.

Presented by the Instrumental Music Department (sorry choral members, but my son did not inherit his mother's voice, unfortunately), it included everything from budding musicians in the elementary All City Band, to a rocking performance of "My Favorite Things." 

Nancy Mest talked about the rewards of teaching woodwind students "from their very first note" up to the point where, as the High School Flute Ensemble showed, they are accomplished enough to play a perfectly lovely rendition of "Angels We Have Heard on High."
Also a Pottstown tradition, Mest and High School Band Director Michael Vought received gifts from students they have taught for as long as seven years.

Vought, who said "this is a tradition I will not break" as he opened his gifts in front of the crowd, joked about how well you get to know people when you've taught them for seven years.

So well, it seems, that he felt comfortabe enough to take to the drum kit when Sam Dudley, Aaron Kemmerer and Frank Scaltrito needed a rhythm man.

Vought also tussled with tradition, and demonstrated his evident fondness for medleys, when he included a selection called "House of Horrors" on the program.

He explained that with Christmas and spring being the only two concert venues, the band would never get to play a Halloween-themed piece unless he pushed the envelope. But his saving throw was noting there is a long tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmas (think Ghost of Christmas Past).

(While Vought tussled with tradition, I tangled with technology and won, I think. I finally managed to figure out how to embed into this space the video I made from the show last night. For those who prefer The Mercury site -- and, apparently, have a love of pop-up ads --  here is the link to where its posted on The Mercury web page.)  

Props also to High School Principal Stephen Rodriguez for helping to arrange a change in the usual order and seating so that the younger children got a chance to hear the high school jazz band's performance. Hopefully it will be a source of inspiration for them.

Too often, we have sat through concerts when parents get up and leave as soon as their children's contribution is completed. Understandably, it's late and younger kids have to get to bed and have trouble sitting still for hours on end 

But hey folks, let's face it. It's also rude.

The sad result, as Rodriguez noted, is that fewer people get to hear the most polished performers, the high school band, what Mest justifiable called "the pride of Pottstown."

The pride, or rather fondness, I felt for Pottstown, however, came at the end when Vought led the band and the audience through a quick four-song holiday sing-along.

Anytime anyone can get this town to do something together, they deserve kudos.

Such events also serve as a not-so-gentle reminder of the value of learning to read music and being exposed to things that might otherwise slip past those watching Kim Kardashian.

Sure, anyone one of the kids may turn out to be the next virtuoso musician to be produced by Pottstown, but that need not be the only reason.

Listening to the kids play jazzed-up versions of songs they might otherwise ignore, the word that came to mind was "enrichment."

We're not talking about good investment strategies here, unless you mean investing in giving our children a richer life experience and a broader perspective with which to face the world. 

They need not all become maestros to make such programs worthwhile.

They are being taught to have open minds. They are being taught that practice has a reward. And they are being taught how to work together to achieve a common goal.

One look at how our Congress operates should convince even the most casual observer that such enrichment should be music to all our ears.

All of which is to say -- just right for a holiday pick-me up.

1 comment:

  1. "... For those who prefer The Mercury site -- and, apparently, have a love of pop-up ads ..."

    Chomp, chomp, chomp! Is that the sound, I hear, of biting the hand that feeds?

    Merry Christmas to you and yours, Evan. Thanks for all you do, professionally and personally, for all of us. Regards,

    Joe Zlomek, Managing Editor
    The Sanatoga Post