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Making music

The fifth-grade orchestra of Worthington Middle School, under the direction of instructor Katie Stafford, rehearses in advance of Monday night's all-school orchestra concert. A district-wide band concert follows on Tuesday evening, with both concerts to be held at the Worthington High School gymnasium. (Ryan McGaughey/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON - Hundreds of student instrumentalists will toot their own horns--and serenade on their strings--during 2012-13 spring finale concerts Monday and Tuesday evenings at the Worthington High School (WHS) gymnasium.

On Monday at 7 p.m., nearly 240 fourth- through twelfth-grade orchestra students will deliver a string-focused concert, while about 350 fifth- through twelfth-grade band members (brass, woodwind and percussion players) will perform Tuesday at 7 p.m.

"All of the orchestra students have been practicing very hard and can't wait to showcase their music Monday," said Katie Stafford, director of the fourth- and fifth-grade string musicians.

"All of the orchestra students have been practicing very hard and can't wait to showcase their music Monday," said Katie Stafford, director of the fourth- and fifth-grade string musicians.

Melanie Loy leads the 62 sixth- through eighth-grade orchestra students, as well as 40 ninth- through twelfth-graders.

"There are eight seniors in the orchestra, and I've had them since they were in sixth grade," related Loy. "We've done a mass performance of the 'Hummel Concertante' since then, and they always look forward to it.

"The seniors have even taken to singing their parts on the Hummel, and their a capella version is actually pretty good."

Melanie Loy's high school orchestra tackles the sophisticated "Mantras," plus Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's arrangement of "Over the Rainbow." A lighthearted Beach Boys medley is also part of their program.

"The sixth graders are playing 'Accents' and 'Edelweiss,' and the seventh/eighth grade orchestra will share 'Toccatina' and 'I Dreamed a Dream' from Les Miserables," she added.

Stafford's 75 fourth-grade beginning orchestra will present familiar tunes like "Can-Can," "Ode to Joy" and "Frere Jacques."

"They are especially excited to perform the 'Hummel Concertante' with all of the middle and high schoolers at the end of the concert, because they want to hear what it sounds like in combination with the more advanced parts the older students play," said Stafford.

Her 55 fifth graders will play "Fiddles at Shady Gulch" as well as "King's Court.

When the band students take their turn Tuesday, Jeanette Jenson's 67 fifth graders will perform "Galactic Episode," "Sousa Sounds" and "Pirates of the Barbary Coast."

"We make 'Sousa Sounds' more authentic by having the tuba players on sousaphones, and the band favorite is 'Pirates of the Barbary Coast,' which depicts the Battle of Tripoli," explained Jenson. "The drums play trash cans as the battle comes to life."

The music of the sixth- and seventh-grade band students, led by Michael Andersen, will adhere at least loosely to the theme of video games.

"The South Dakota Symphony Orchestra did a video game music concert a few years ago and I really enjoyed the tunes," shared Andersen. "Although not all of the songs are from video games, I think it is safe to say they sound as though they could be."

Numbers include the "Theme from Tetris" and "At the Crossroads," played by the 65-member seventh grade band, and "Rites of Tamburo" and "Halo Theme" shared by the 52 eighth-graders.

"Pirates of the Caribbean" is one of the sixth-grade band's features, but the world premiere of a composition by WMS sixth grade percussionist Sam Van Westen is also on tap.

"Sam wrote a song--'World Within'--that definitely has video game inspiration," revealed Andersen, who orchestrated the composition.

At the high school level, Jon Loy will lead his 115-member band in three elegant numbers--"Jubilant Flourishes," "Havener Fanfare" and "Fanfare & Flourishes--as well as "Highlights from Les Miserables."

"I chose the Les Miserables medley because I was looking for something that talked a lot about heart," explained Jon Loy. "We have 24 graduating seniors in this band concert, and they are a class of kids who aren't all about themselves but about each other, and about lifting each other up.

"Les Miserables was about a group of people who rallied together to make a difference at a certain point in time, and that's like this group of seniors--they've been team players throughout their entire instrumental career at WHS, and that's what's gotten them this far."

The high school portion of the band concert will also highlight two students--tuba player Orissa Nitibhon and trumpeter Krista Vogt--on selections that earned them superior ratings at the Solo/Ensemble contest in early April.

Recognition of graduating seniors, as well as the presentation of year-end awards (for seniors and eighth graders), will be part of both the band and orchestra concerts.

A new honor for a deserving band student is the "Leader of the Band" award, which is sponsored by WHS band alumni and honors the legacies of the first three WHS band directors--Victor Moeller, Gerald Niemeyer and Glenn Evensen. Their tenures stretched from 1926-83.

"Victor Moeller founded the WHS band and wrote the school song, Gerald Niemeyer took the band to new heights and Glenn Evensen was known for his showmanship, LP recordings of the Trojan Band and elevating the school's marching program," listed Jon Loy. "They all also served as directors of the 'Amazing' Worthington City Band.

"The timing of this award seems appropriate as several of the kids now playing in the high school band have parents or grandparents who played under one or more of these directors," continued Jon Loy. "The kids have learned more about the rich history of the Trojan band program this year as we've discovered more about these past band directors, and they really feel they are part of an important tradition here."

As a result, it will be "an emotional concert," Jon Loy says, and the evening's audience will include WHS alumni who played for each of the directors named above.

"There are so many special moments within the concert, with the inaugural 'Leader of the Band' presentation, saying goodbye to the seniors and honoring Glenn Evensen with the dedication of a plaque in his memory," related the director.

"The kids are playing with a real sense of purpose that the audience is bound to notice."

District 518 orchestra students are in concert at 7 p.m. Monday at the WHS gymnasium; the concert is free and open to the public. At 7 p.m. Tuesday, the District 518 band students will perform in a concert that is also open to the public. An admission fee or District 518 activity passes are required for the Tuesday concert.