Issue: April - June 2009
Bandworld Magazine Page

 

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by M. Max McKee  Bio

 

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The Start of Children's Programs

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In 1972 our new music building at Southern Oregon College opened, marshalling in new concepts, excitement and the need to find a budget that did not rely on state funding and especially student government. The commissioning of "Fanfare and Celebration" for the dedicatory week, special tours to Hawaii (1972 and 1976) and Mexico (1974), the band's appearance at the Northwest MENC in 1973 and the CBDNA National Convention (Berkeley) in 1976 got me to thinking how we might raise plenty of money to make it all happen.


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So, in 1975 we produced the first of more than 20 annual children's programs based around a band concert. The concept incorporated an idea used frequently by orchestras in producing concert versions of an opera. We would begin these children's programs with about 20 minutes of concert music (frequently bringing students out of the audience to play in the percussion section, for example) and featuring the various sections of the band. The remainder of our first concert series was an adaptation I had made of a quite complete version of the Wizard of Oz. The characters had some dialog, there were simple, rotatable sets and actors in full costume. Total time about 35 to 40 minutes.

We advertised these to 4th, 5th and 6th grade students from about 10 school districts and charged one dollar per student in the 1970s to attend. To minimize out-of-school time for the members of the college band, we hosted these performances in our Music Recital Hall at SOC during the rehearsal period at 11:00 a.m. three days a week. We always sold out 12 performances within 72 hours of announcing the program for that year. This then provided us with over $6000 toward a 3-day tour of Oregon and California, during which time we'd present 9 concerts at 9 different schools for entire student bodies (often inviting grades 1-12 in small, out-of-the-way schools). Each school contributed $500 thus increasing our tour budget to over $10,000 in mid-1970s dollars.


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The following year we always needed a new show (for at least 4 years before repeating anything for the benefit of attendees still in grade school and for our own band members in terms of literature and special concert features. One year we made an agreement with Disney Educational Films. We purchased the 14-minute "Peter and the Wolf" and were permitted to show it silently during our concert. I added a string quartet to the band, arranged all of Prokofiev's music to match the film's length, and developed a sound-effect corps of 10 band students. In addition, the narrator had a complete score with ques to provide the story over the sound system. As the conductor, I practiced and practiced so that I could conduct correct tempos and stay exactly with the appropriate action. This was always a huge hit with audiences (of any age!) and gave the band a unique experience in production.

Another year we used the Disney "Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom" movie but preceded the performance with live demonstrations, student interaction, etc. In the late 70s, a very talented trombonist in the SOC Band by the name of John Adamson (who had played the Tin Man in Wizard) wrote a complete musical entitled "The Great Adventure." It was so successful we presented over 30 performances in a 3-year period before a total audience of 25,000 students, including a performance at the first-ever Western International Band Clinic in San Jose, California (1980) to a grade school student and attending-director audience of 3400 people. Monies from those productions provided over $20,000 toward the Southern Oregon State College's European tour in the summer of 1980 to England, France, Italy and Germany.

The concept is, in my mind, a great way to fund raise. It allows the students to use their talents, instead of their brawn, to raise money. It also developed tremendous respect and recognition throughout the entire community for our college band program.

Next time: Foreign Connections

 

 

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