'A visceral experience': Band and chorus students provide heartwarming performances

Raising their instruments and voices, the seventh- and eighth-grade band and chorus students may have performed at opposing ends of the Mahomet-Seymour High School, but the groups provided a unified message of the joy of music.

"Music brings joy to her life," said Pam Scott, the mother of seventh-grade chorus member and saxophone player Ella Scott. "She's talented in music, and it allows her to express herself."

The evening featured the talents of the young bands and choirs with a series of three songs showcasing music around the world per each seventh- and eighth-grade musical group.

Inspired by junior high band director Philip Meyer, the music around the world themed evening yielded classic songs such as "What a Wonderful World" arranged by Bob Lowden, which was performed by the eighth-grade band; popular songs from movies like "Pete's Dragon," such as "Something Wild" arranged by Ed Lojeski, performed by the eighth-grade chorus; and international tunes including "Danse Carnivale" by Randal D. Standridge, provided by the seventh-grade band, and Dave and Jean Perry's "Dansi Na Kuimba" offered by the seventh-grade chorus.

"It started like many concerts start," Meyer said. "I am online trying to find some good music that will best fit the band."

The eighth-grade band's performance of "Invocation and African Dance" by Matt Conaway showcased the group's percussion section. The trill of the xylophone, the hum of the drum and the clang of the cymbals had the crowd sitting on the edge of their seats during the performance.

Other crowd-pleasing moments included the eighth-grade chorus' "Something Wild," which featured piano accompanist Cassie Schwarzentraub and violinist Meadow Perkins. The violin's cry along with the steady rhythm of the piano and the melodic voices of the choir ended the evening on a high note.

"It's a visceral experience," said Nicole Kuglich, the Mahomet-Seymour junior high chorus teacher. "You are just moved and it's hard to explain why that happens. There's a lot of emotion when you listen to someone play with such passion."

Meadow Perkins certainly contributed to the touching ending. Though Mahomet-Seymour has no orchestra section, Kuglich said the student approached her and worked on the piece for an entire year before Thursday's performance.

"Her mom said she never practiced more and as she was practicing for this; it meant a lot to her," Kuglich said. "She was able to show off her skill set and able to put that on display."

Other students demonstrating musical excellence were eighth-grade trumpet player Sam Bowers. For the last four years, Sam has contributed to the Mahomet-Seymour music program, and in return, he was able to gain other life lessons.

"He practiced a lot for tonight's performance," the student's mother, Linda Bowers, said. "There's a camaraderie in the band. He's learned a great deal about commitment. He now has an interest in marching band."

Chorus members, such as seventh-grader Brie Goudie, also took home a great deal of pride from the evening's performance. According to her mother, Lisa Goudie, the student practiced nightly before Thursday's show.

"I'm always interested in what she's singing," Lisa Goudie said. "It makes her happy when she's singing and I enjoy seeing her happy."

Kuglich along with the high school chorus teacher, Jill Rinkel, share the responsibility of preparing chorus students for the event. Rinkel often works with specific sections and provides the piano accompaniment.

The ultimate goal of the evening is to have fun. Seen lending students fist bumps before the evening was Meyer in attempt to calm students' nerves.

"I've been trying my best to calm them down," he said. "I just let them know that it's cool, it's fun and as they say, 'break a leg.'"

Through nerves and all, the delivery of Kuglich's chorus students to a live audience is a teachable moment.

"It really trains them in how to conduct themselves," she said. "One of the things of being a musician is being able to control your nervousness or any feelings in a way that you're putting yourself out there."

Thursday's performance was a "crowning achievement" for the students, according to Rinkel. The event is always the final push of months of preparation, which began in November for the bands and in December for the choirs.

"You hope that most of them will develop a love of learning, whether it's band or choir, and that they will continue to participate in those," Rinkel said. "The enthusiasm and excitement to be there and make music. To me, that's what it's all about."

Band and chorus students will compete at the Solo and Ensemble event at Mahomet-Seymour High School from 9 a.m. through 1 p.m. on Saturday. Upcoming performances include the "POPS" concert and awards ceremony for the junior high and high school bands at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 8. The junior high and high school choirs will hold their "POPS" concert and awards ceremony a mere days later at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 10.


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