Middle school musicians shine

Sixth-grade students from all over Iowa play along with seventh-graders at the Karl King Honor Band Festival. This is a great opportunity for younger musicians, said festival coordinator Marianne Kesten.

“There are very few honor bands in Iowa for the sixth grade,” Kesten said. “It’s a really good experience for the kids.”

More than 40 schools sent a total of 140 students per grade to perform at the festival Saturday evening. One band from each grade spent the day in intense rehearsals in the gym and auditorium at St. Edmond.

“They’re pretty well prepared,” said Kristin Bodholdt, conductor of the sixth-grade band. “They’ve got their music down.”

Bodholdt has directed middle and high school bands at multiple schools, including a stint at St. Edmond, but this is her first honor band.

“We had one kid lose a mouthpiece, we had one director forget a score at home,” she said. “I broke my baton.”

Still, she said the day was going well.

Guy Blair, conductor of the seventh-grade band, was a high school director in Pella for 32 years.

Sixth-grader Teisha Sritharan, of Humboldt, played tympani for one of the songs during the percussion sectional, before the full band got together. She explained how she made it to the event.

“My band teacher sent my name in. It depends on how high you are in the book,” she said. “It was very exciting that I got to be here.”

Seventh-graders Ben Jongewaard and Cheyenne Palmer, of Sheldon, came a long way to play tuba in the group.

“We left at 5:30,” Palmer said.

They’ve done plenty of work to prepare, too.

“I practiced it at least an hour each day since the day we got it,” Jongewaard said. The music was passed out back in October.

Practicing on their own doesn’t fully prepare the musicians for the big group.

“If you play it alone you can almost imagine what it would sound like,” said Jongewaard, “but here it’s a lot different.”

Sixth-grade directors Lynn Corrow and Christa Miller said this was an excellent chance for their students.

“It’s a nice incentive for kids who are more advanced,” said Miller.

“Some of the kids from small schools never get to play in a big band, and have full instrumentation,” said Corrow, who teaches in Webster City.

Miller agreed, even though she teaches in Des Moines.

Her band only has 26 members.

Nick Martinson, seventh-grade bass clarinetist from Phillips Middle School, said playing in the band as a sixth-grader made it easier this year.

“It was scary at first,” he said of last year, “but then I got to know people.”

Martinson was enjoying the difficult music.

He said “Pinnacle” and “Ye Bands and Braes” were the toughest songs, because of the rhythms and notes. But “Pinnacle” is also his favorite song.

“I just like the rhythms,” he said.

Seventh-grade trumpeter Tanner McLaws, of Manning, said he liked the Karl King march “Alamo” the best.

“It’s just weird, it’s different from most music,” he said.