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Jenson leads 60-plus fifth-graders on band journey

WORTHINGTON -- As August's dry days continue rolling along, upwards of 60 incoming Worthington Middle School (WMS) fifth-graders are diligently working to master "Merrily We Roll Along" and other basic tunes.

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Jeanette Jenson leads fifth-grade flautists through a warm-up Monday afternoon at Worthington Middle School as part of WMS Band Camp. (Julie Buntjer/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- As August’s dry days continue rolling along, upwards of 60 incoming Worthington Middle School (WMS) fifth-graders are diligently working to master “Merrily We Roll Along” and other basic tunes.

“Our goal by the end of this introductory band camp’s two weeks is to help them learn how to create and maintain good tone, know three or four notes on their instruments and learn to play a song or two,” listed Jeanette Jenson, the WMS fifth-grade band instructor under whose careful tutelage the students are operating.

More than five dozen eager 10-year-olds are spending 45 minutes daily, both last week and this, picking up flutes, clarinets, saxophones, trumpets, French horns, trombones, tubas or drumsticks as they start their musical journeys as band students.

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“We have a really good balance of instruments so far,” said Jenson, mentioning having 20 young trumpeters and about 15 clarinetists.

“The kids have great enthusiasm and empathy for each other, and they want to work hard and succeed,” credited Jenson of her youthful charges.

“The students have been very excited and focused, and parents have been extremely cooperative in getting their children to and from the lessons.”

From 7:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day, Jenson (along with her WMS music department band colleague Mike Andersen) patiently instructs the budding musicians in small groups, dismissing random squawks and squeaks as necessary steps in the growth process.

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“I like to take it very slowly so they can develop good habits and good tone,” stressed the teaching veteran, who has taught in ISD 518 for 21 years (overall, Jenson has a quarter-century of teaching under her belt).

“Learning good [musical] habits now will serve them well as they advance and as their skills develop,” she continued.

“It’s a lot of doing, modeling and routine, routine, routine. Generally, they catch on pretty quickly because they want to succeed and they don’t want to disappoint.”

Jenson expects to add between 10 and 15 more students to her WMS fifth-grade band roster when school begins in September, but for now she is thankful for the roughly 65 students she’s been able to show the ropes.

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“In some years we’ve started fifth-grade band students in June, but with the district’s calendar change this year we shifted to August,” she explained, noting the WMS sixth- through eighth-grade summer band camp took place in June, continuing its years-long tradition with that timetable.

“We thought their [the fifth-graders’] retention would be higher and they’d more easily continue their better habits going into autumn with the August dates,” suggested Jenson.

Jenson praises the three Prairie Elementary music teachers -- Debra Moe, Jeanne Mammen and Linda Van Westen -- for laying the musical groundwork for her band beginners, as well as for their assistance with the band screening process.

“We screened over 230 kids last spring on various instruments,” noted Jenson. “Those teachers and colleagues at Prairie, along with the administrators, allow me to come into the school and help me with the screening or this just wouldn’t be possible.

“They also provide the students with a base of elementary music education and music theory knowledge, and it all continues to build as they kids advance.”

Looking ahead, Jenson’s wide-eyed fifth-graders can see the pride and polish of the Worthington School “Spirit of Worthington” marching band, and that contributes to their motivation, too.

“Director Jon Loy and his WHS band are such a visible presence,” said Jenson. “With their influence, the younger kids see what the older kids can do and where they can end up if they stick with it.”

Jenson’s fifth-graders will make their official performance debut on the evening of Nov. 4 at the combined WMS/WHS Indoor Marching Band Concert at WHS.

“But first, they’ll have an ‘informance’ -- an informal performance for parents -- this Friday on the last day of band camp,” explained Jenson.

“We like to take the opportunity to show the parents how the kids can practice at home, and what they’ve achieved over the course of only two weeks.”

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