Cymbal crash! Thanks to a revitalized instrument-rental program and the lifting of pandemic restrictions, middle and high school music programs have been a resounding success this year.
Young musicians in Durango School District 9-R schools will demonstrate this renewed interest during the district's Band Extravaganza. The event is free and open to the public, and will likely fill up quickly with many families attending. It will be held at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College on Wednesday, March 29, from 7 to 9 p.m.
Ben Smith, Band and Choir Director at Escalante Middle School, said the Band Extravaganza was last held in 2020 prior to COVID shutdowns. Approximately 200 students from Escalante, Miller Middle School, and Durango High School bands will perform on March 29, and the event will conclude with a combined song with all the bands on stage together. Students will spend the afternoon leading up to the concert rehearsing on stage. Their breaks will be filled with activities designed to help them build connections with students from other schools and grade levels.
“It is such a great experience for the kids to play in our community’s largest performance venue, and get to work together with students and faculty from other schools in the district,” said Smith. “The entire event is a culmination of student hard work, creativity, and collaboration.”
Smith said new funding for the instrument-rental program helped invigorate the district’s music programs and make them accessible to all students. Each secondary school in the district has its own inventory of instruments available for students to rent. Fees are often reduced or eliminated for students in need. Most of the funding is self-generated by instrument rental fees; however, this year the district allocated an additional budget of over $150,000 to make major upgrades to inventory and balance repair budgets.
“This will go great lengths at modernizing our instrument inventories, and help balance our budgets that often fall short so we can waive fees for students in need,” said Smith. Aside from monies raised through instrument rental fees, the schools host several annual fundraisers to help fund the purchase of new instruments, and travel to competitions and annual trips in-state and around the country.
Smith said students view ensembles as a place where they can simultaneously have fun, think critically, push themselves, and grow. “Many students see their ensemble as their team or family, and that is one of the highlights of their day at school,” he said. “These classes offer students a space to think creatively and critically, and develop life skills that make them well-rounded world citizens.”
“We would like to thank the admin at our schools for their support of our programs, our superintendent Dr. Karen Cheser for showing our kids that their music education is valued, the Concert Hall for allowing us to use one of our community spaces to give voice to our students' talents and hard work, and each of the students and their families for their commitment and support to music,” said Smith.