ILWACO — As they rehearse under the patient baton of director Rachel Lake, the sound of brass and woodwinds engulfs the cramped Ilwaco High School band room.
They play everything from Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” to John Williams’ “Star Wars” themes.
Broadly grinning, but with evident concentration, Violet Boulton and Michael Rodda add an element of panache to the percussion section. Brady Vinsonhaler switches between bells, cymbals and triangle, receiving kudos from Lake after an especially spirited tambourine contribution.
IHS’s band is gearing up for its winter concert Nov. 19. The 7 p.m. event will be at the Hilltop Auditorium in Ilwaco and admission is free.
The concert is a two-for-one deal because the 16-member IHS Jazz Band will also perform.
During class, clarinet, trumpet and saxophone players work on blending together. But there’s also some solo performers on this team. Braden Montgomery adds a discreet guitar track to the ensemble while — unlike many orchestras — there’s only one violinist.
At IHS, that’s a seat filled by Lindsey Reed, a senior who has played her instrument for almost eight years. When not contributing her experience to play alongside her high school peers, the musical veteran can be found performing across the river with the Columbia River Symphony, already filling its second chair.
“I like playing in the band. It’s just fun,” says Reed, not at all phased by being the lone violin player.
That may change. Poppy Hildebrandt is learning the violin at home, but for now is content to focus on contributing her talents to the flute section at IHS. The freshman musician speaks with enthusiasm about why she does it.
“I have always liked learning to play musical instruments and to make friends who share an interest in the same things as you,” she said during a break in class.
“I really like the opportunity it gives for traveling,” she added, already looking forward to the prospect of a possible trip to Florida — though not until her junior year.
Fellow freshman Kaeden Lyster is one of 11 students who play in both the IHS Band and the Jazz Band. As he practices a number that allows himself and experienced trumpeter Christopher Lake to improvise, he tilts his alto saxophone into the music with some elan.
“It’s fun being dorky and doing improvisation,” he says after the bell signals an end to the 7 a.m jazz band session and summons a larger group of students to the regular band class.
He has been playing his instrument since fifth grade, in part inspired by his mom, Crindalyn Lyster, also a saxophonist.
When asked about the varied musical styles of his two bands, he acknowledges neither is easy. “Jazz band is more stressful because it’s a lot faster!” As an athlete, he knows of a concept that assists, however. “At times it’s muscle memory that means we can do it.”
Playing with his peers, offers many rewards.
“This is one very good place to make friends — and learn culture,” he said. “It’s like family.”