SIBLEY, Iowa — Just two weeks after relocating the Sibley-Ocheyedan High School band to a new, larger space, S-O Band Director Peter Carlson has noticed a positive difference.

Not only does the high school band’s 99 students better fit in the more spacious addition, the larger space also lends itself to a noticeable difference in the band’s sound.

“You can hear everybody’s part now,” Carlson said. “It was such a small room with so many kids playing in it, it was so loud. There’s some room for volume changes.”

The band moved into its expanded rehearsal space on Oct. 31. Construction on the 2,820-square-foot band room began in May. The band was displaced to the school’s auditorium until construction was completed.

Carlson has been S-O’s band director for 20 years. The band, he said, had long outgrown its previous 1,750-square-foot space.

Band membership has hovered around 100 students for much of Carlson’s tenure. Membership has gotten as high as 115 students and as low as 75, he said.

Although school enrollment hasn’t spiked, band membership has been back to around 100 students consistently for the past five years, Carlson said, adding that retention is also positive.

Carlson said the more spacious room has allowed the band to seat in proper concert band formation, rather than in straight rows.

“There were 20 kids straight across and touching elbows,” Carlson said of the space woes of the previous band room.

Sibley-Ocheyedan Band Director Peter Carlson (right) directs students seated in straight rows instead of a proper concert band formation due to lack of rehearsal space prior to the completion of the school's expanded band room. (Submitted by Candi Norgaard)
Sibley-Ocheyedan Band Director Peter Carlson (right) directs students seated in straight rows instead of a proper concert band formation due to lack of rehearsal space prior to the completion of the school's expanded band room. (Submitted by Candi Norgaard)

Carlson can also maneuver around the room, which helps him better instruct sections.

There are more cubbyholes for instrument storage, which keeps them from cluttering the floor. The larger space also helps Carlson maximize rehearsal time.

“I’d have to stop class earlier just so (the students) could get out,” he said of the approximately 10 minutes it took students to vacate the former classroom.

Thanks in part to an additional exit, students have shaved the time it takes to put away their instruments and exit the classroom by about five minutes.

The total cost of the project was approximately $2 million, S-O Superintendent Jamie Craig reported. In addition to the band room expansion, the project also included a heating, ventilation and air conditioning unit (HVAC) retrofit and new gas boilers. The district covered the expense through its existing budget.