North Tahoe Band Program: Keeping the tradition of excellence alive one note at a time
Special to the Sun
TAHOE/TRUCKEE and#8212; Twenty or so sleep-deprived teenagers file into the band room at North Tahoe Middle School where they hurriedly crack open a myriad of battered instrument cases. A gleaming cache of horns, saxophones and trombones emerges. Itand#8217;s the award-winning Jazz Bandand#8217;s daily 7:30 a.m. early-bird practice and teacher Lena Meyer has no time to waste with two major performances slated in the coming weeks.
and#8220;Good morning,and#8221; Meyer says while stepping onto the conductorand#8217;s stand. and#8220;Please play the B-flat blues scale.and#8221;
After warm-ups, she encourages a few kids to try some solos and then works out the kinks on a challenging measure or two. All too soon the school bell rings, instrument cases are snapped shut and these poised and talented musicians morph back into typical middle school students, scattering to their science, math and social studies classes humming and#8220;It Donand#8217;t Mean a Thing, If It Ainand#8217;t Got That Swing.and#8221;
With 185 students and#8212; a whopping 62 percent of the NTMS student body and#8212; involved in the band program thereand#8217;s a good chance the halls are filled with plenty of humming.
and#8220;Itand#8217;s all about having fun and playing music with your friends,and#8221; explains eighth-grade tenor saxophone and clarinet player Grace Lindemann, 14. and#8220;What better way to start off your morning than to take out your sax and blast off the cobwebs.and#8221;
Sixth- through eighth- graders can take concert band as an elective class and the most motivated ones also participate in schooland#8217;s two jazz bands. The middle schooland#8217;s Jazz Band has come in first place for the last three years in its category at the annual Music in Parks Festival.
Lena Meyerand#8217;s salary is funded entirely by Measure A, a local parcel tax that is up for renewal in the March vote. The studentsand#8217; instruments and their inevitable repairs are also funded by this important parcel tax, as well as other community sources such as the FAN Club (the music programand#8217;s active fundraising arm), Excellence in Education and local service club grants.
Meyer says artistic activities such as band are important to children during this period of rapid development. Band also helps sharpen kidsand#8217; teamwork skills, broaden cultural horizons, enhance self-worth and provide a positive source of motivation at school, she adds.
and#8220;This is the time when they are figuring out what kind of people they are going to be,and#8221; Meyer explains. and#8220;My main motivation to become a teacher stems from the positive influence band had on me in middle school. It truly did change my life.and#8221;
Former NTMS band teacher Shauna Gilberti concurs with Meyerand#8217;s comments and speaks to the communityand#8217;s enthusiastic buy-in.
and#8220;I have never worked in a community where so many of the students are enrolled in band and where the music program is such a vital part of the community,and#8221; she said. and#8220;It seems as though most students who go through the North Tahoe school system were in band at some point.and#8221;
Gilberti underscores the importance of Measure A, which not only supports the North Tahoe schools, but also Truckeeand#8217;s elementary, middle school and high school music programs.
and#8220;Without the middle school feeder program, there can be no high school program, and therefore music would disappear from our schools,and#8221; she explains. and#8220;A program cannot be successful if itand#8217;s not properly funded; literature becomes outdated, instruments are in constant need of repair … the list goes on.and#8221;
Dean Nordby and#8212;-who claims he has and#8220;the greatest job in the worldand#8221; and#8212; has been a music instructor at North Tahoe for 21 years; 11 years at the middle school and 10 years at the high school. Nordby is a district employee and says Measure A doesnand#8217;t directly fund the high school program, but there is a powerful ripple effect.
and#8220;I get help from the fact that Measure A funds all of the middle school band teachers and elementary school music instructors,and#8221; Nordby said. and#8220;I canand#8217;t wait to get those students in the next few years! Without Measure A, we will have very little chance of seeing music continue in TTUSD. My forecast is three years and probably we will be finished with music if we lose Measure A.and#8221;
According to Nordby, North Tahoe High School has 62 band students, which equates to 21 percent of the student body. The high school offers four different types of band: Symphonic Band for freshmen and sophomores; Wind Ensemble geared to chamber and ensemble music-loving juniors and seniors, Jazz Ensemble and the audition-only Jazz Band.
The North Tahoe High School recently captured second place honors at the demanding Folsom Jazz Festival. Percentage-wise, the North Tahoe band program also lands its fair share of spots in the competitive, audition-only Capitol Honor Band and NorCal Honor Band programs.
Fresh from directing the high school Jazz Bandand#8217;s popular 40s Night at Granlibakken earlier this month, Nordby says he feels the communityand#8217;s love for the music program and the benefits it brings. And the and#8220;band geekand#8221; mentality that has been popularized in movies? Nordby says this unfortunate stereotype simply does not fit here.
and#8220;Parents think itand#8217;s great that their kids play and instrument and students donand#8217;t mind walking to their sportsand#8217; practice with an instrument in their hand,and#8221; he said. and#8220;People are proud of the heritage here and students continue to amaze me by stepping up to keep the tradition of excellence alive.and#8221;
and#8212; Writer and NTMS parent Ann Lindemann is an unabashed supporter of Measure A and North Tahoeand#8217;s tradition of music excellence.