20
May
11

Guest Star: Bill’s School of Rock

I teach 4th through 8th Grade Band and 6th Grade Music at the Oak Grove School. Last Tuesday we presented our Spring Band Concert, the last big performance of the year featuring the Symphonic Band (65 students in grades 6 through 8), Jazz Band (37 students) and Jazz Combo (10 students). All the groups absolutely wailed. I knew that they would. We had prepared so well that the kids could just relax and have a great time. The large group played “The Minnesota March” by Sousa, one of the more difficult marches that goes through a tone of different keys; a long medley of tunes from “The Lion King” that features several soloists; a Lady Gaga Medley that was great fun (I got to play electric bass), the “Hawaii Five-O” theme and a nice arrangement of “O Mio Babbino Caro.”

The Jazz Band and combo played tunes and arrangements by Clifford Brown, Victor Feldman, Duke Ellington and others, with many wonderful solos. We use all instruments in Jazz Band, too. This year we had several clarinet, three flutes and vibes in addition to the regular instrumentation, which made for some beautiful added colors in the arrangements.  We always encourage everyone to take solos and almost all do. Many times there was spontaneous applause from the audience who were all clearly engaged and enjoying the music. The evening concluded with a medley of MJ’s “Bad” and Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September” with Keith, our trombonist/styling vocalist, singing and doing the moonwalk across the stage. It was glorious.

I was so happy for the kids, their parents, our school and our program. To see and hear them succeed so profoundly is one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had; not just for what happened that night, but for the journey we’ve shared over the last five years.

I attended the spring concert of the Libertyville High School Bands (our students, as well as students from two much larger middle schools go there in 9th grade) a week ago and it, too, was wonderful. Gorgeous playing emanated from every instrument. As is the case each year, most of the first-chair players and winners of the awards for outstanding musicianship were Oak Grove alumni. The following weekend, that LHS Wind Ensemble won the 2011 Superstate Band Competition as they have done for most of the last twenty years. No one makes a big deal out of it, but they see what’s happening.

I always say that the stuff we teach in band is not just about band, it’s about life. I’m talking about things like setting your sights on a long-term goal and having the persistence to see it through, the discipline it takes to practice even though you may be tired, being assertive yet sensitive in a team effort, thinking on your feet, showing up prepared and on time, schlepping all the equipment over to the nursing home to brighten the day of people who really can use a little music from some young folks, the direct relationship between how much work you do and how much fun you have, etc., etc. I’ve been doing this long enough now to see students that started band in 4th grade grow up and take their places in the world. While there are some who go on to make music their life’s work, the others who become pediatricians, surgeons, biochemists and teachers were also formed at least partly by their experiences in band at Oak Grove. These are simply great people that I will be proud to know for the rest of my life. I’d like to think that I had a part in their growth not just as musicians, but as human beings, too.

– Bill Overton, Saxophonist in the Stitely Orchestra

If you want to learn more about Bill, read a full interview.

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