The arrangement of Dover-Eyota’s high school band looked different from any concert you've seen.
The students spilled into the seating area, with clarinets taking up much of rows A-F, flutists standing in the middle aisles, and percussionists on the landing. Upright tubas sat toward the back of the stage, blanketed by woodwinds, while student soloists sat along the stage front for maximum access to the auditorium’s ceiling mics.
Band director Ryan Anderson had rearranged the group for a rushed recording for the Minnesota Music Educators Association showcase — a performance nearly a year in the making.
The MMEA chooses top bands to perform at a “celebration of excellence” — normally at a winter showcase in Minneapolis. Last spring, Dover-Eyota’s band was among a handful of high school musical groups chosen, Anderson said. He planned to “deal with COVID as it (came).”
Nearly a year later, the band has undergone “the strangest delayed gratification” on its way to recording the full set for a virtual spring showcase in May.
The 20-minute recording included “The Nine” by Randall D. Standridge — featuring vocal soloist Luke Ziemer — as well as “Voyage" by Christen Taylor Holmes and “Quad City Stomp” by Michael Sweeney. Marie Ferguson filmed the set for a video to be published later in the spring.
Getting the band back together felt like a victory for its director, after a full year of music education taking it on the jaw.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the entire high school band converged in the auditorium after six weeks of hybrid band practice where Anderson only conducted half of the group in person at a time. One section had two percussionists, while the other had seven. One had one tuba, versus three.
The entire school had returned to in-person classes just last week, making for three and a half rehearsals with the entire band. Snow delays curbed practice time even further.
But the band pressed on.
“It’s the best window to record,” Anderson said. “I wanted to get it out of the way since spring break is next week — 10 kids could come back with COVID.”
Balance was the keyword during the recordings, with frequent pauses to rehearse sections that “we’ve gone over 20 times in hybrid mode” — but perhaps only a few times with a full brass section.
Finally, the band played through each piece — followed by a pause and “Did we get it?” from Anderson.
Murmurs of assent from the band meant it was time to move on.
“It’s a pretty unique setup for making concert band, but everyone’s going through it right now — we’ll make it work,” Anderson said. “I don’t know how to do it any better or any different.”