ILWACO - "I thought it was one of our better concerts," said Ilwaco High School Band Director Brian Bergman following the annual spring band concert at the school gymnasium last Monday night.
The over 100 students who make up the three bands - the high school jazz band and junior and senior high concert bands - roared through several numbers before a traditionally large crowd.
"The bands just really came up to speed," said Bergman, who has been the band director at IHS for seven years. "It's exciting to watch them when they get into a performance because the level of attention is much higher. I really noticed a difference just conducting them."
Bergman commented that the high school concert band's performance of the "Folk Song Suite" by R. Vaughan Williams was probably the stand out of the show.
"They just really did a bang-up job on it," he said. "Clearer then I'd ever heard it before."
All the songs performed, except for those by the jazz band, were the first time for all the bands - Bergman makes a habit of always having new songs for the bands to play at each performance. This can pose a challenge for the musicians, but Bergman said that can be a good thing, sometimes bringing out the best in them. He commented on how well he thought the junior high concert band performed the "Hogan's Heroes March," saying that it has some very tough aspects to it for that level of band.
"Some things came together at the last minute that I was very surprised by," he said. "I knew they could do it, but I didn't know if they would make it happen, and they did."
He said that particularly the trombone section, "just nailed their off-beat rhythm's that they were having trouble with in rehearsal."
Bergman said he thought that the turnout for the performance was pretty good, saying that they usually draw a couple hundred to these concerts.
"Of course if we could fill the whole side of the gym, that would be great," joked Bergman.
He went on to say that he would like to try and get permission to use the Hilltop School auditorium for their final concert of the year, taking place on May 19. He said that in order to perform in that venue, a series of risers has to be set up to accommodate the large number of performers - a very "pains-taking" process he said.
"The kids said they'd really like to try it and I'll support them if they want to," he said. "I know it will sound better."
He said that the issue in the past regarding that venue has been that it was harder for parents to see their kids on stage that way, whereas now they set up on the floor of the high school gym with parents looking down from the bleachers.
Only days after their concert performance, the members of the various Jr/Sr high school bands set off on their third annual, three-day, three-show tour.
The group started out by giving a concert for the students at Hilltop on Thursday morning before hopping in a luxury liner bus headed north for the Emerald City. On the way there they stopped off in Hoquiam to meet with their school band where they performed for each other - and with each other.
"Play along with them and enjoy some band camaraderie," said Bergman.
Then on Friday, they set up in the Center House at the Seattle Center, and performed a free concert for the public.
"There's a lot of people milling through there throughout the day," said Bergman, who performed there in that capacity when he was in junior high school.
He said that the rest of the weekend was spent seeing sites in the Seattle area, including the Experience Music Project building, the Space Needle and the Pike Place Market.
"I've committed to do it as long as I have kids that are going to support the idea," said Bergman, who feels it is a 'band-building' time. "As long as we put out decent bands, I'm going to do it."
"The kids take a lot of pride in their band when they know they have a trip to look forward to. It does add a little bit of a carrot to sticking with band, in some instances."
The entire group of band students are invited to go on the trip which costs about $6,000 all together, equating to about $150 per student. Most students will do band fundraising projects in order to pay for their trip, or foot the bill themselves. That price covers two nights in a hotel, plus two dinners and all sites they visit. It also covers the chartered bus.
"I mean, it's just a really neat experience," said Bergman.
The junior and senior high school bands will perform a few more times before the end of the school year. The All-High School Marching Band will play during the Loyalty Day parade on May 4. The Junior High Concert Band will play at a junior high band contest in Longview sometime in May. All IHS bands will take part in the Grand Finale concert on May 19. And the high school band will make one final appearance playing at the IHS graduation ceremony on June 7.