Small bands to create big night in Waitsburg


Brad Green, Waitsburg Public Schools music educator, is a study in motion while working with students in preparation for an upcoming concert.

Brad Green, Waitsburg Public Schools music educator, is a study in motion while working with students in preparation for an upcoming concert. Photo by Greg Lehman.

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WAITSBURG — Brad Green thinks big. And hears bigger.

The Waitsburg public schools music educator understands the challenge of working in a rural district. Bands and choirs are always small in number, but that hasn’t stopped him from giving students a taste of big band, so to speak.

The public gets a sampling, too, in a concert at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Waitsburg High School gym. Tickets are $10 per family and the money goes to defray the cost of putting on the event.

Once per year Green invites similarly-sized school bands to Waitsburg for an event he’s titled “MASS band and choir.” He knows the acronym stands for something, he said with a laugh.

“I just don’t remember what it is.”

No matter, it spells experience for his musicians and those from elsewhere around the region when his music groups are joined next week by more than 100 other musicians from a dozen public schools.

Several of those groups will travel hours to become part of the concert. After getting started in unified rehearsal in the early afternoon, the musicians present band and choir concerts to the community.

Those will be directed by Brenden Beck from Walla Walla University band and Jeremy Mims from Whitman College choirs.

This year’s selection includes “Fanfare for the Unsung Hero,” by Matt Conaway, “Dry Your Tears, Afrika,” by John Williams and “Instant Concert,” by Harold L. Walters.

It’s a lot of music for the kids, Green said.

“They are all from small schools, and they all get here and play in a 120 to 150 member band,” he said. “It’s a big thing.”

He and other directors jointly decide on what music to play in May, then learn it with their own groups of students when school resumes in the fall. Criteria for the pieces is somewhat tight — it’s good to defray costs by using music the schools already own, for example. Then each work has to be learnable by a spectrum of skill levels in the first two months of the school year.

“But not be boring,” Green said. “We want the audience to enjoy it.”

Such as “Ascend,” by Samuel Hazo. The music, originally commissioned for a middle school in Georgia, was written to be “fun to play,” Hazo said in an email. “There is no real thematic symbolism but it is simply fun to hear and take part in.”

The song is energized by layers of mixed meters and is designed to work well for developing bands.

On the day of MASS, everyone is versed in all the notes, but it takes some more work to stir together a number of different directing styles into a smooth mix.

The final product, though, keeps band directors coming.

“It’s quite impressive, both to the kids and the audience,” Green said.

“The concert is worth it for the kids.”

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