Practice makes perfect

Band impresses on Branson trip

Tonganoxie Community Band director Charles VanMiddlesworth directs a group of roughly 30 musicians at the band's 2007 annual concert in the VFW Park. Enlarge photo

April 7, 2010

Keith Slater said he was quite nervous playing on a large stage in Branson, Mo.

The Tonganoxie High School junior plays trombone for the THS band, which recently performed at the Branson Variety Theater. The band played for a clinician as part of its trip to Branson. Then that evening, March 13, the band performed four Irish songs for an audience in the Branson theater.

Once the nerves settled down, Slater said, everything was fine.

“It was a lot of fun,” Slater said. “It was really educational as a group.”

THS music director Charles Van Middlesworth said that he had looked into playing in an exhibition in Branson. This past year he was kicking around the idea. The THS concert and jazz bands submitted CDs to Branson On-Stage Live, an organization that invites bands to open for other acts, and also work with a clinician.

There are 86 students in the concert band and about 35 in the jazz band at THS.

“It turned out to be a great experience for the kids,” Van Middlesworth said. “They conducted themselves with utmost professionalism.”

The THS band director noted that clinician Bruce Chidister was very complimentary.

Van Middlesworth said Chidister told the band, “I can tell you’re a great band and I’m looking forward to your performance.”

The concert band then played in a Spirit of the Dance show, which consisted of four Irish songs, including “Firedance.”

Van Middlesworth noted the song was “by far the hardest song we ever played” in his tenure so far at THS. Van Middlesworth is in his 12th year at the school.

The THS jazz band was set to perform March 14, but it was an outdoor venue and inclement weather forced the cancellation.

However, organizers invited the band back to play in his company as part of a program that music teachers from across the United States will attend.

“Our kids left a mark in a positive way on Branson,” Van Middlesworth said.

In addition, the clinician sent an email to Van Middlesworth, as well as THS principal Jamie Carlisle and Superintendent Kyle Hayden singing the band’s praises.

Wes Williams, a THS sophomore who plays the tuba, said he initially wasn’t that excited about the prospects of a Branson band trip, instead of, for instance, another bowl game trip. Williams, though, changed his tune after performing in Branson.

“It was one of the greatest experiences in band I’ve had,” Williams said.

As part of the band’s work in Branson, band members were presented with a large participation trophy at the event.

And though students, such as Slater, were nervous about taking such a large stage, they should have felt right at home. Roughly 70 Tonganoxie residents also made the trip to see the concert band perform. Slater said there was “a lot of red” in the crowd, referring to Tonganoxie High’s primary school color. Van Middlesworth himself sold roughly 50 tickets to the performance, he said.

The work with a clinician and performance in Branson was a culmination of a year of hard work for the band, according to Van Middlesworth. But the trip wasn’t all about work. Band members visited Tracks Family Fun Park, where they enjoyed go carts, laser tag and miniature golf.

The band also dined at Mcfarlains restaurant, where dessert is served first. Williams joked that any trip involving a restaurant where dessert is served first has to be good.

The band did other sightseeing as well, including climbing aboard a World War II amphibious vehicle.

Band members now turn their attention to year-end competitions.

Regionals for solos and small ensembles will be Saturday on the Baker University campus in Baldwin City. Ratings at regionals, from 1-5, are given out, with 1 being the top rating. Groups receiving 1 ratings advance to state, which will be April 24 at Andover High School.

Concert band, meanwhile, will head to its state contest Wednesday, April 14 at Gardner-Edgerton High School in Gardner.

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