Moffat County High School Band prepares innovative spring concert | CraigDailyPress.com

Moffat County High School Band prepares innovative spring concert

Band will present a rendition of student Wes Atkin's 'When I'm With You'

Michael Neary

The Moffat County High School band practices during class with Band Director John Bolton. They're preparing for the annual spring concert at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the high school auditorium.

— Wyeth Krumrey chose to play the trumpet in sixth grade, but not because the instrument came easily to him.

"I was supposed to play the flute, but for some reason, the trumpet got my attention," said Krumrey, now a senior at Moffat County High School. "I think it's because I heard jazz as I grew up, and I liked the sound of it."

Krumrey tested about a half-dozen instruments and didn't play the trumpet as well as he played the others — but the trumpet's sounds were the ones he wanted to make. So, he stuck with it, and by the end of his freshman year, he'd begun to master the instrument.

Krumrey will be one of more than 60 high school musicians performing at this year's spring concert, scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the high school auditorium. A concert by Craig Middle School will begin at 7 p.m. May 19 at the same location.

The concert will move through three phases: a trio performance, a jazz component and a more general concert segment.

For the trio performance, Bekah Bird, her sister, Christa Bird, and Band Director John Bolton are planning to play "Three Precious Gifts," by Robert Baksa. The piece is familiar to Bekah and Christa Bird, who performed it about four years ago — with their older sister, Kaitlen Bird — in memory of their mother.

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"We did this piece … for a memorial of my mom when she passed away," said Bekah Bird, a senior. "Mr. Bolton said that, before I left, he wanted (us) to do it again, and he wanted to be a part of it."

So Bolton, who normally plays the saxophone, has been practicing the trombone so he can accompany Bekah Bird, who also plays the trombone, and Christa Bird, a junior, who plays the French horn.

"Each one of us has at least one part where the other two cut out and you're by yourself for a little bit," Bekah Bird said. "It's kind of like a mini solo, but it shows not just the skill, but the meaning and the heart of what you're playing."

Striking that balance — between self-expression and group harmony — seems to encapsulate the challenge of the musicians as they look toward Tuesday's concert.

The jazz section in Tuesday's concert will feature something Bolton said he hasn't seen done before in a MCHS concert: the performance of a student's original composition. Senior Wes Atkin composed the song "When I'm With You" on his guitar, and a Colorado musical group that's been working with the Moffat County band — Trout Steak Revival — created a new arrangement of Atkin's song and sent the recording to the band. The students in the jazz portion of the band worked through the new version during class. They listened to the recording by Trout Steak Revival, they played what they heard and then — after some intense discussion — they chronicled the notes for future performance.

Bolton said the whole process of playing by ear, then writing down the music, is vital to young musicians.

"Just about everybody professional I talk to can't emphasize enough, 'Play by ear,'" Bolton said. "Playing by sight is important, that's a given … but what everybody needs to be able to do is play by ear. That makes what you look at more alive."

An artist might well feel apprehensive about other musicians retooling his work, but Atkin said the song felt unfinished before the students hammered out the new arrangement.

"When we worked on it with the jazz band, it became its own piece," he said.

The jazz portion of the concert carries appeal for other students, as well. Sophomore Miguel Perez chose to play the alto saxophone in the seventh grade, switching from the clarinet because of the alto sax's role in the flourishing of jazz.

And for Miguel — as for many of the students — a broad interest in music began to take shape when he was a small child, long before he started sifting through the musical instruments of middle school. Miguel said he'd listen to his father playing the guitar at home and in church, and an attraction to music, if not to that particular instrument, began to emerge.

"I picked up the guitar," he said. "I never liked the instrument, though. I just couldn't get my hands around it. Middle school came around, and I noticed there was a band program, so I started out with the clarinet."

Contact Michael Neary at 970-875-1794 or mneary@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Education.