It’s that time of the year again when Newton plays host to one of the biggest, most eclectic jam sessions put up under one roof: it’s time for “Band Extravaganza.”
This once-a-year special concert takes place in the Newton Senior High School gym on Monday at 7 p.m. and features all of the district’s bands under one roof.
Jim Beerends will lead the NHS Wind Ensemble and NHS Symphonic Band. Deb Stoulil is in charge of the fifth and sixth grade bands, and Seth Banwell is in charge of the seventh and eighth grade bands. These bands will perform two individual sets apiece, playing everything from “Homework Blues” to “Friend Like Me.” They will cap it all off with a mass band performance of sixth graders through seniors playing “Heroic Fanfare and March” and “Zap!”
Making things even more exciting is that there will only be one mass band rehearsal, just a few hours before the extravaganza begins.
Freshman Elizabeth Raper has been in band for two years and is looking forward to Monday’s concert.
“I played in it last year,” Raper said. “In the beginning it can kind of be frustrating because you are trying to get everybody where they are supposed to go. But it’s actually really cool to see how it turns out.”
Raper has played the guitar for years and started learning the alto saxophone just so she could play in the band.
“I really wanted to play music,” she added. “I’ve played the guitar for five years and I wanted to do something it school with it (music).”
Beerends sees this massive ensemble of musicians as a great way for the younger kids to learn and to keep kids interested in the band programs.
“It gives the younger kids an opportunity to see what the high schoolers are doing,” Beerends said. “It also gives the high schoolers a chance to connect with those younger kids and try and build some rapport with them, and it obviously helps to try and keep kids in the program. It keeps the kids excited about what is going on here.”
Beerends seems to be onto something, as multiple kids mentioned being in the district’s band programs for a long time.
“I have been in band since the fifth grade,” junior Liam Briggs said. “It’s pretty cool. I remember when I was really young the music we played was really simple, but it didn’t seem really simple in the fifth grade. And when we got to hear the middle school and high school bands, it was pretty cool because you got to hear all different levels of music. It’s been fun.”
Briggs even reflected on his favorite memory at the extravaganzas in the past.
“My first one back in fifth grade was cool because we got to come up to the high school in a big group and got to hang out with all the older kids,” he said.
Freshman Grant Nook has been in band for five years and loves Band Extravaganza.
“It’s really fun to get to listen to all the different bands, and lunch is always really fun because you get to eat with a whole bunch of little people that are just learning how to play an instrument,” Nook said. “And you get to have a big mass band. I’m looking forward to playing the songs. We have been pretty constant on our run-throughs, so we’ll see how it turns out. It’s going to be fun.”
Both boys’ sentiments were shared by sophomore Eileen Gerken, who will only be attending her second Band Extravaganza because she attended private school before going to NHS.
“We get to play our music in front of people and were really proud of it,” Gerken said. “I’ve only been to one. It was just last year and we just kind of watched other people play. When we played it was just kind of average. (This year) we are playing really more advanced music and it’s just really fun to listen to other kids play and stuff.”
This is only Beerends’ first year in the district, and this will be his first Band Extravaganza, but he echoes his students’ sentiments about the concert.
“It’s fun for the high school kids too, because this is music they probably would have played when they were that age,” Beerneds said. “And here they are (now) getting one rehearsal on it and playing it and performing it, whereas when they were that age there was no way they could have done that. It’s a great way for the high school kids to see how much they have grown by being in the band.”
The district’s band programs wouldn’t be at the level they are without great community support and students that care, Beerends acknowledged.
“Music boosters are great here,” Beerends said. “They help us out so much. With all the marching band stuff we do, they haul the equipment around for us, they feed kids – a lot of stuff we wouldn’t be able to do without their support.”
“The kids are doing a great job, especially here at the high school,” Beerends continued. “We have a fantastic group of kids that work very hard and are involved in numerous activities. They are involved in everything and the fact that they are able to put out quality performance after quality performance is phenomenal. This isn’t like a bigger Des Moines school, where the kids specialize more. These kids crossover and do everything. The fact that they’re able to pull off the quality of the stuff that they are able to pull off says a lot about our kids. It’s outstanding.”
Staff Writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641)-792-3121 Ext. 426 or firstname.lastname@example.org