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High school band is fun, educational

September 16, 2012
By JOHANNA BOYLE - Journal Ishpeming Bureau ( , The Mining Journal

ISHPEMING - Leave the notebooks and calculators in the lockers. For this class, required supplies are your folder of sheet music and your instrument.

Band is a favorite school activity for students across the country, and that's just as true at Westwood High School in Ishpeming Township.

"It's a good experience. It's really fun," said Stephanie Lusardi, 17, a senior percussionist in the Westwood music program. "Everybody likes band."

Article Photos

Westwood High School band students warm up on the field to rehearse for their next marching band performance. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)

"Band" at Westwood is centered around the school's concert band, which focuses on introducing students to standard band pieces and newer, more modern pieces, as well as making sure each student can perform well on his or her chosen instrument.

"I want them to have an appreciation for all forms of music," said Westwood band teacher Gordon Erickson. "I want them to have an appreciation for their instrument."

Erickson said he usually introduces students to composers such as Ralph Vaughn Williams and others who wrote pieces that make up some of the classic literature for concert band as well as having students perform more modern and pop pieces.

"We play lots of different types (of music)," Lusardi said.

During football season, however, the band's roughly 50 members take their music outside to rehearse during class for performances as the school's marching band, a relatively new arrival to the Westwood music program.

Band class during football season is just as likely to take place on the field as in the classroom, with the band rehearsing both music and marching formations to perform at the games or later at basketball games as the school's pep band. Participation in marching band is a requirement for being in concert band.

"We end our marching portion of the season with a stadium show in the gym," Erickson said.

The stadium show consists of a performance of the band's marching show, along with tunes that are played in the stands during breaks in the sporting action.

Outside of the daily concert and marching band rehearsals, Westwood students also have the opportunity to participate in the school's percussion ensemble, which allows percussionists to take the spotlight. Structured as a regular class period during the school day, the ensemble focuses on all percussion instruments, from snare drum to xylophone.

A snare drum player during marching season, Lusardi also plays with the percussion ensemble.

"You learn technique. It's really good to learn," she said.

A third option for band students is the school's jazz band, which Erickson also leads, which meets before school twice a week as an extracurricular activity, with students getting to experience everything from big band and swing music to latin and blues.

Students who participate in high school music programs often find themselves continuing to play long after their graduation, with some joining music programs at the college level, others playing with community ensembles and still others going into music as a career.

"I want to go into music ministry," said Lusardi, who also sings and plays guitar.

Although participation in high school music helps with everything from teaching leadership skills to improving test scores, both Erickson and Lusardi said for most students, playing an instrument comes down to one thing.

"It's fun," Erickson said.

Lusardi agreed.

"Just the experience and being with all the people. It's a good environment to be in," she said.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is



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