When asked for his reflections on his 7th and 8th grade band classes, teacher Kevin Langejans glowed, saying, “It’s been a really special year.” That’s because this group has pleasantly surprised their teacher and even themselves, landing a spot at the upcoming Michigan State Band and Orchestra Association (MSBOA) competition.
With competition slated for April 24, students have been practicing all year long, giving special focus to their songs since the end of the holiday season. GVSU student teacher Richard Grooters explained that band directors must choose to perform at least one song from a list provided by the MSBOA. While a cursory glance may deem this an easy task, Mr. Grooters outlined the delicate balance demanded of Mr. Langejans in choosing just the right song.
“You really have to understand the ability level of the kids and choose something that’s going to challenge them. If the teacher chooses a song that’s too easy, students get bored. Yet, if it’s too hard, you go into Festival and you don’t score very well.”
At the state competition, students will perform a total of three songs and face stiff competition from other West Michigan schools in their band district. But Mr. Grooters has high hopes based on a successful year with an extraordinary group of young musicians.
“These two groups have exceeded my expectations coming in. I did not expect to hear this level of musicality or to work on the kind of music that these middle school students are playing. I didn’t expect it at all. The 8th graders are preparing right now for their Spring Concert and are performing a piece that [Mr. Langejans] did previously with high school students. They really are a notch or two above what you’d expect from a middle school band.”
Mr. Langejans says the growth he’s seeing in the Allendale music program may have many factors, but the fact that students have to choose either choir or band as a 6th grader has helped give them a strong musical foundation and aid in retention. “Every year there is momentum and the excitement factor goes up,” he said.
7th grade students Celeste Lopez-Keranen and Claire Emmert are enthusiastic and optimistic about their prospects:
“I think it’s really cool that we get to go to this competition. I think Allendale’s music program is really growing and the talent is getting better and better and I think Mr Langejans will lead us in the right direction to become successful,” said Celeste.
Claire added, “We have some difficult music but I think we can definitely accomplish it.”
Mr. Langejans smiled, keeping everything in perspective. “No matter what they’re going to be great. The fact that they’re going to state is what I’m happy about, no matter what happens. I know they’re going to do well. If they don’t get perfect scores, that’s ok too. The work that they do throughout the year is WHY they’re going to State, it’s not just their preparation on those specific pieces of music, it’s half of the year–all the boring stuff–the scales, all the work that they’ve done the first half of the year that’s why they’re having success. That’s more important to me than getting good scores at state.”