It is the calm after the storm - literally, emotionally, and physically. As I write this on the morning after the inspiring class of 2018 graduated with class last night, I am reflecting on all that we have accomplished throughout this unforgettable year. Amidst the administrative changes at the beginning of the year, our classroom community stayed strong. Many of you have used our classroom as an oasis and home base from which to go about your regular school day business. Whether it is students coming in daily for rehearsals, arriving before school to practice, staying after school to rehearse with groups, or coming in during C lunch to socialize with music friends, our classroom continues to be a meeting place and stress reliever for many of us. It warms my heart to see the community of the classroom blossom.
This year saw many advances in all areas of our department. Chamber Orchestra began the year with a mini-tour of the elementary and middle schools in our area. This trip worked it's magic and in April when students were registering for orchestra, a number of incoming 9th graders spoke highly of our outreach concerts. I look forward to continuing this tradition. String Orchestra continues to improve every year and this year tackled Bartok's Romanian Folk Dances, easily one of the most challenging works we have done in that ensemble. We also got to work directly with two local composers - Sarah Miller and Carl Schroeder. Both composers came to visit rehearsals and worked with the group on musicality and both left impressed by the String Orchestra students. Once again, several students in orchestra were accepted into the All-State Orchestra and a special congrats to Dylan and Makaela (and the rest of their quartet) for being honored as the Minnesota Varsity Finalists and to Isadora for being honored as a composer. Hearing their work on MPR on Easter Sunday (as I hushed my family's loud conversation!) was a highlight of the spring. We are also thrilled to have been invited to participate in the 2018-19 MPR Classical High School orchestra residency program. Through this program, the Mill City String Quartet will be our quartet-in-residence for the whole year helping to coach our own string chamber ensembles.
The Jazz Ensembles also continue to grow. This year Mr. Needleman coached five jazz combos, with each memorizing 3+ tunes during every quarter. With Friday morning Bread and Jam sessions flowing smoothly, the combo program continues to infuse creativity and improvisation into our jazz program. Both Jazz Too and Jazz One participated in the third annual Minneapolis Jazz Around Minneapolis Fall Festival, held at South in October, and grew immensely from that experience. Jazz One performed a fantastic swing dance and Hot Notes and finished the year with a strong 'Bandshell' concert that featured the world premiere of Aaron Hedenstrom's "It Ain't Easy." (click here for a video of that!) which was funded through a grant from Achieve Mpls.
Both Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble continue to grow as well. In the largest Symphonic Band we have had to date, the 67 musicians performed three great concerts this year and earned an "Excellent" score while representing our school at the MSHSL Large Group contest. One performance highlight was their version of Ayatey Shabazz's "Of Honor and Valor" which was made all the more special because we got to meet him via FaceTime during a class period. Wind Ensemble shined again year with many strong highlights including a fourth consecutive 'Superior' rating at the MSHSL Large Group contest with their performance of "Silverado!" and "Early Light," two very challenging works. As always, a big highlight of the year is the spring tour and this year was no different. Our time in Madison/Chicago infused us with renewed musicianship, especially after working with the faculty at UW-Madison.
Once again, we are indebted to the work of the Performing Arts Council. This year, revenue generated through their endeavors directly sponsored our two artists-in-residence, Mr. Greg Lewis who conducts Jazz One, and Adam Randall who directs the drumline as well as providing lesson scholarships to woodwind and brass students. An anonymous donor pitched in to fund brand new folders for the bands (the old ones were literally hanging by a few threads). As the number of students enrolled in band, jazz and orchestra continues to grow, we are purchasing more instruments. This year, we purchased two cellos, one viola, one five-octave marimba, and new strings for school-owned violins, violas and cellos
I am sure that you noticed that this year the concert pieces performed represented a wider array of diversity. I took great care to present works from female composers and composers of color. These composers enriched our curriculum this year, gave me an opportunity to learn more music, and gave our students a better perspective on the life of a composer. However, purchasing these works was more costly and I want to thank the PAC for their support in my programming efforts. For the upcoming year, we have joined a few consortiums to commission new works that I am very proud to attach our name on to.
Personally, this has been a trying school year with many ups and downs, especially the budget cuts and admin shake up. But throughout it all, my constant has been our amazing students and getting to make music with them on a daily basis. For that, I am eternally grateful. I look forward to a summer filled with time spent with my own children, being outside as much as possible and taking advantage of time spent at the cabin to recharge. I hope that you all have a wonderful summer. For the Seniors, DON'T forget to pack instrument when you load up the car for college. For the rest of you, I look forward to seeing you in August as we renew our pursuit of all those musical moments and memories that we will create.
With great appreciation, Reid Wixson June 3, 2018
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