Story and photos by Tara Hefferan
Newaygo Bands hosted its annual Spring Concert on Tuesday, May 23. Under beautiful blue skies, the “Spring into Summer Concert in the Park” showcased performances from the 6th grade and 7/8th grade band programs, and featured the Newaygo High School Symphonic and Jazz Bands.
Director of Bands, Branden Listh, welcomed the crowd to Brooks Park at 5:30 PM, thanking the community, families, and schools for their tremendous support. Then, members of the 6th Grade Band Program were invited to the front of the park to share their musicianship. High School Senior Catherine Buchner served as a guest conductor for the first piece, “March Across the Seas.” Assistant Band Director, Megan Funk, conducted the two other selections, “Banana Boat” and “Indigo Rock.”
The performance space was then given over to the 7th and 8th Grade Band. Conducted by Mr. Listh, the 7th and 8th graders also played three selections, though of greater length and complexity. They performed “At Sight March,” “Glorioso,” and “As Winds Dance.”
Then, the award-winning Newaygo High School Symphonic Band took center stage. They began by playing “Foundry,” a percussion-focused piece written by John Mackey. Mr. Listh noted that while the piece was written for twelve percussionists to perform, Newaygo Bands had only nine percussionists, meaning that the students had to work extra hard. This was Mr. Listh’s favorite piece of the concert, saying “To bring this great literature to the program and to introduce it to the students was a real treat.”
Before moving to the next piece, Mr. Listh presented awards for excellence to two band members. Senior Alexandria Bruwer won the John Philip Sousa award, and Gabriella Brooks won the Arion award.
Next, the Symphonic Band performed “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” arranged by Daniel Walter. This performance took the crowd in a different emotional direction from the previous piece. Haunting and melodic, “Rose” featured the woodwinds and took a decidedly quieter approach, with no percussive elements.
After the second song, Mr. Listh presented the next set of awards for Most Improved in Symphonic Band to three students: freshmen Landry Hefferan Nordlund and Zachary Spaulding, and sophomore Wesley Reed.
The Symphonic Band’s final piece was “Music from the Motion Picture How to Train Your Dragon,” arranged by Sean O’Loughlin. As the Band entertained the audience with their skill and talent, they also demonstrated the tremendous growth cultivated in the Bands program. Between 6th grade and the Symphonic Band, students move from novice musicians just learning to read musical notes to accomplished performers skilled in technique and artistry.
Mr. Listh then presented two additional awards for excellence. Senior McKade Hurrle won the Semper Fidelis award, and senior Catherine Buchner won the Director’s award. Mr. Listh also recognized the Band’s graduating seniors, presenting Senior Awards to Oliver Abbott, Alexandria Bruwer, Catherine Buchner, Owen Chapman, Xavier Heath, McKade Hurrle, Claire Porter, Tyler Redinger, Emily Tindall.
Finally, the Jazz Band claimed the stage. Playing several jaunty pieces that had the crowd dancing in their seats, the Jazz Band showed their tremendous range and creativity. In all, the Jazz Band performed six songs, including “Take Five,” “School’s Out Strut” and “Knockout.” Mr. Listh presented two Jazz Band awards. Lola Lopez won Most Improved and McKade Hurrle won the Louis Armstrong award.
As the night came to a close, Mr. Listh thanked the crowd and asked for their continued support. In particular, the Bands Program now has a QR-code that supporters can scan with their smartphone cameras to make online donations. The code can be found on the Newaygo Bands Facebook page.
By the end of the evening, the crowd felt that it truly had “Sprung into Summer.” Coming together in the central Brooks Park, the community experienced the power of music to mark the passage of time and to promote shared experiences that unify. With this gift, Newaygo’s talented musicians are now ready to head into summer. The Marching Band will perform next at the Independence Day Parade in Croton, on July 1.