Fairfield Ledger

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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 22, 2018

FMS Skypes with composer

Feb 28, 2018
Photo by: WERNER ELMKER/Submitted photo Fairfield Middle School seventh- and eighth-grade band play “Dynamo” as composer Todd Stalter, shown on the screen, listens in, on the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center’s Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts.

Fairfield Middle School’s combined seventh- and eighth-grade band experienced a morning of performing, learning, and opportunity Friday on the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center’s Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts stage.

FMS sixth-, seventh- and eighth- grade band instructor Mary Andersen said the students met at the Sondheim for their annual recording session, but this year’s event had a slightly different purpose: preparation for large group contest.

Andersen said the band began the morning adjusting to the acoustics on the Sondheim stage, “which are wonderful, but an adjustment, nonetheless.

After a bit of a warm up, they performed the opening of “The Expert March” by H.A. VanderCook, arranged by Mark Grauer for their clinician, Jerry Zinn.

Zinn taught seventh- and eighth-grade bands at North West Junior High in Iowa City for more than 20 years, retiring not long ago to work with West Music as an education consultant. Zinn helped the group work on counting, articulation, dynamics, style, and other aspects of their playing. He did the same with their slow, lyric piece for contest, “Rippling Watercolors” by Brian Balmages.

The morning culminated in a Skype session with the composer of their third piece, “Dynamo”, Todd Stalter. Stalter teaches general music and band in the Eureka, Illinois, school system, and taught FMS seventh-grade students Macy and Maggie Rayburn before their move to Fairfield. When the music was distributed in January, one of the Rayburn girls mentioned this connection in her lesson. After looking up the composer’s bio on the publisher’s website, Andersen showed them the photo and the description of the composer, and the girls confirmed that this was, in fact, their elementary general music teacher.

Andersen then shared the news with Julie Rayburn, FCSD kindergarten teacher, mother of Macy and Maggie, and former colleague of Stalter. Once Mrs. Rayburn connected to Stalter, it was only a matter of scheduling and making the details happen so that the FMS band could talk with the composer of the piece they were studying. They played the piece for Stalter, who offered some general hints to help them with their performance. Then the students asked a few questions, which they had submitted in their previous rehearsal. They asked where he got the ideas for his pieces; what inspired him to become a composer; what his favorite part of the piece was; what the editing process was like, and how long it took to write the piece; and what his favorite composition had been.

Many of the students remarked that the Skype with Stalter was their favorite part of the morning, and others enjoyed the time with Zinn.

“It was absolutely time well spent, and I look forward to hearing their performance at SEIBA large group contest on March 6,” said Andersen.

Parents and guests can attend the band’s performance, which will be at 3:45 p.m. Tuesday in the Ottumwa High School Auditorium. After the performance, the band will have a brief clinic with one of the three judges.

Andersen added that Tuesday is parent-teacher conference night, and she will be available after the band has returned to FMS and finished unloading, which will be about 5:30 p.m.


Ottumwa Solo Day

Sixty Fairfield Middle School band students in sixth- through eighth-grades performed in 41 entries for the annual Ottumwa Solo Day festival Friday at Ottumwa High School.

The 41 entires included 28 solos and 13 small ensembles.

All of the FMS performances received “I” ratings, with 25 of the events receiving the highest rating, a “I+”. Students were scored on several categories including: tone, articulation, rhythm, stage presence, expression, and technique. The judge remarked that the students were well-prepared, and played very well.

Andersen said this was an optional event for band students, but the seventh- and eighth-grade performers will have the opportunity to play for a different judge at the FMS Solo Night in March.

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