Tenor saxophonist Johnathan Brand and clarinetist Chance Parker were busy lads the final day of February as they prepared to participate in what teacher Mike Buskirk called "an American tradition of blues."
"We wanted to make up our own solos," the boys said.
On March 5, the Rim Country Middle School beginning band duo stood at the front of the stage and played the blues they had written.
"Each student plays something they created out of their head," Buskirk said.
Although he never knows what "Basic Blues" will sound like, the boy's song met with hearty applause.
Imagined marchers stepped lively as flutists Anna Watts (beginning band) and Courtney Rogers (advance band) played "American Patrol."
The flute is Rogers' passion.
In addition to the 50 minutes per day at school with her band mates, she often practices on her lunch break and regularly at home. She also plays the piano.
Mary Adams has been playing the mellophone, an instrument that is often, for students, a precursor to the French horn, since the school year began.
Buskirk calls it a "trumpet on steroids.
"Silver Moon Boat" was the first time Adams had ever performed a solo before an audience.
"I was scared," she said.
Her sister Margaurite plays the French horn in advanced band.
Their teacher said they are on track for music scholarships but, for now, they are inspiring their six-year-old brother Alan to grow up and play an instrument.
He thought Mary sounded "pretty."
The advanced band did total justice to "Greensleeves." The traditional English ballad brought a tear to several eyes in the audience.
Buskirk nabbed the sheet music from music teacher Larry Potvin's charts at Payson High School.
"Greensleeves was the hardest. Normal middle school instrumentation would call for 12 different parts, flute, clarinet, sax, et cetera.
"Our 31 performers played 26 different parts. There was a lot of counting, listening and blending going on up on that stage," Buskirk said.
"Pennington Gap" has the audience tapping their toes.
That was percussionist Hannah Dalgai's favorite because she "played a lot of instruments" including the triangle, suspended and crash symbols.
Trumpeters Tim Wallace, Jimmy Brown, Johnathan Rockwell and Michael McWilliams boogied on "Bugler's Holiday."
"We did amazing," an excited Kelsie Owen said after the first two bands became part of the audience waiting for the jazz band to begin.
"We were great," her friend, clarinetist Kendra Bland added.
"More people from the community should come to hear the kids' concert," noted Leslie Owen, mother of percussionists Quinn and Kelsie.
"The music program in this district, and we have lived in several, is well run and we appreciate the music teachers," Owen added.
All that jazz
Vocalist Katie Jones blew the audience to the moon when she sang "How High the Moon" backed by the jazz band.
Buskirk added Jones because, "she had the right kind of voice and the right kind of attitude."
Lena Bishop was featured on trumpet during the song.
Brad Guyton and Aaron Meidinger performed solos on "Breezin'."
Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" showed off the talents of Jimmy Brown on flugel horn and Kit Buskirk on the mellophone.
A few adult members of the audience danced in their seats, while a few children took their happy feet to the aisles as the jazz band rocked the house with "Twist and Shout."
This was an exciting year for the jazz band because it has been a "building year," Buskirk said.
The jazz band is comprised of middle and high school students, but only seven students remained for the 2007-2008 school year.
Buskirk is excited to have 17 out of the 19 members returning next year.
The cycle of band membership dropping off is the result of a decision made seven years ago at the district level according to Buskirk.
"In 2000, there were about 40 band students at PHS, 100 at RCMS and 120 in the three elementary schools.hen the elementary band teacher died and the superintendent (no longer in the district) decided not to replace her because music is not a tested subject.
By 2004, there were almost 60t PHS but only 42 at RCMS, andven fewer at the elementary level -- the feeder system had been eliminated.
"Frontier Elementary and PHS shared music teachers for the next two years.Those kids are noweventh- and eighthgraders in the 60-member RCMS band and wille added to the 30 members at PHS in the next two years.adly, Frontier is the only elementary site with a band program," Buskirk said.