Shouts and Murmurs: Energy that keeps going and going
Charles VanMiddlesworth is one of those unstoppable people we occasionally meet. It is fortunate for Tonganoxie that he puts his tremendous store of energy to a positive use inspiring his junior high and high school students to excel in music.
From the beginning he captured their attention increasing the band size four-fold, replenishing the school's supply of marching band uniforms, leading his students to contest wins and finally, in January 2001, taking them to the Cotton Bowl.
Now, more students, and contests winnings since then, Van-Middlesworth is leading the students to another bowl, this time the Liberty Bowl, slated for December in Memphis, Tenn.
While speaking to school board members Monday night, VanMid-dlesworth's energy was obvious he talked fast, barely stopping to take a breath as he told board members about the next bowl trip.
He elicited a chuckle when he told why he wanted to use a different bus line than the one used to take students to the Cotton Bowl last year:
"We weren't real impressed with the first bus," VanMiddlesworth said. "We had the VCRs breaking down on us."
As one can imagine, a 57-seater bus taking dozens of teens on a 600-mile trip might indeed be more pleasant with operating VCRs.
Almost as an aside, he said that bus line suffered from a lack of storage space, much needed to haul instruments, gear and luggage on a long-distance trip.
Like his vocal music counterpart, Joyce Steeby, who held a vocal music concert last week with junior high and high school students participating, VanMiddlesworth plans to hold a band concert in April, again with the junior high and high school students performing in the same setting.
The idea, Steeby said, is to encourage the junior high students by having them participate in the same concerts as the high school students. Steeby credited her high school students for their encouragement of the junior high students, and said: "They gave the younger choir standing ovations without even being prompted."
And now, VanMiddlesworth also plans to take his students on the road for a shorter trip to Kansas City Kansas Community College, where they have been invited to perform with musicians from the college.
To VanMiddlesworth, who graduated from Kansas University with a degree in music, but attended a Kansas City, Kan., high school that didn't have enough students for a marching band, this is an opportunity for him, as well as for his students.
"Amazing things have happened in the four years that I've been here and I just want to thank you for your generosity," VanMiddlesworth said. "And I just want you folks to say that if you're interested you can help with our trip, we'd be glad to have your help."
By "help," VanMiddlesworth meant paying for the buses to Tennessee. The students would raise money for the remainder of the expenses.
Not only did VanMiddlesworth gain the financial assistance, he also received accolades from board members and Superintendent Richard Erickson, who said to VanMiddlesworth and Steeby: "I just really appreciate all you folks do, you've got a great program the band and vocal music programs are in wonderful hands and my only hope is that we can keep you here in our district."
Somehow, I think many district patrons would agree.