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Many Instruments, Several Sections, One Great Sound

Rexford, Stephen

Rexford, Stephen

Natalie Bandura, Staff Writer

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Walk into any band classroom during the day at Bedford and you’ll see many students all blowing into their instrument and rapidly moving their fingers, covering and revealing various holes or pressing multiple buttons across a long, metal, hollow stick or briskly drumming sticks onto diverse materials to make music. These melodies and harmonies are so unique, but they come together to make original, beautiful music that is not only pleasing to the ear, but is also known to lift up people’s spirits or cause them to feel a strong mood and emotions that altogether create an unforgettable experience.

These sounds are not easy to create and while both learning and teaching music is challenging, it presents rewards that make it worthwhile.

“The students I teach are like my family. It is so rewarding to see students succeed in band, but getting that to happen is very challenging. There is so much variety because teaching each section is like teaching multiple subjects at the same time, which isn’t easy. Each instrument presents its own obstacles to deal with and the techniques are so different from one to the next,” says Mr. Lou Kitchner, the 6th and 7th grade band instructor.

Even listening to each other really isn’t so simple. In order to play the correct note, you need to first read the note, understand it, translate it to the correct note letter, translate that into the action that you must do with your instrument to make that sound, and, finally, do that action, as the same time as the others players, all in a mere fraction of a second.

“I try to do a lot with teaching listening skills,” Mr. Gregg Winters, who teaches 8th grade band, said, “I explain what you need to listen for, and point out important aspects of playing together. Playing an instrument is hard because it requires a lot of physical activity. While students are coordinating it all, listening becomes forgotten.”

Band, however, is not the only music group that Bedford proposes for its students. Another such class is orchestra. While both groups play wonderful music, they are actually very different.

“I’ve taught both orchestra and band,” Mr. Kitchner shares, “They are pretty different, each presenting its own challenges to face and techniques to master. While the feeling of the music varies, the rhythm, pitch, and musicality is similar.”

Students are not the only ones for whom band takes a lot of work. For band teachers, making it all come together at concerts takes a lot of effort even before they enter the classroom.

Mr. Kitchner explains, “I spend hours and hours studying scores and recordings to match the instrumentation and ability levels of each and every group.”
But after all that work, both playing and teaching band is exciting and enjoyable.

“It’s music. We get to work as a group, with everybody contributing at the same time. Unlike a class where people can only contribute one at a time, we can all make statements at once, without it being confusing,” Mr. Winters says.

“Band is fun. I am friends with a lot of people in my section and we have fun playing together. I love my instrument,” said Lauren Lesher, a 7th grade flutist.

Tatiana Dragun, another seventh grader who plays the clarinet, agrees. “It’s great that we can communicate through both words and music.”

Seventh grader Lyah Muktavaram, who also plays the clarinet concurs with Tatiana and adds, “I really like Mr. Kitchner. He understands people and makes band fun, as well as helps us get better at playing our instrument.”

One reason why kids love band so much is that, while getting to make beautiful music, they also experience quality time with their instructors and peers.

“It’s great that we can communicate through both words and music.””

— Tatiana Dragun

Mr. Kitchner shares a funny story, “The one thing that my students have to watch out for is my conducting. This one time I was conducting the Wind Ensemble and somehow my hand and baton went a little lower than the stand. […] the tip caught the stand from underneath and created tension like a rubber band. The thing went flying from my hand, over the ensemble and students multiple rows back and almost hit a few students.”

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Many Instruments, Several Sections, One Great Sound