The La Crescent-Hokah School District’s 8th grade band filled the auditorium at Holmen High School on Tuesday with a big and beautiful noise.
The group was performing as part of a Wisconsin School Music Association Band Festival with bands from Onalaska, Holmen and La Crosse.
Students from the other schools listened to their counterparts and at the end of each performance, expert judges from WSMA took to the stage to offer a critique.
Will Thompson, who plays bass clarinet in the La Crescent-Hokah 8th grade band said the experience was “kind of nerve-wracking” to begin with. But once he and his bandmates hit their stride, the nerves faded.
Thompson said playing in a band gives him a unique opportunity to express himself. Alyssa Tollefson, another member of the group, said she enjoys the opportunity to blend her sound with all of the other instruments.
Throughout the group’s performance, band teacher Erik Chapman was an energetic presence, as he conducted the band from the stage and worked to coax the group to play to the best of their abilities.
“It’s a unique experience to the area because we have such quality programs,” Chapman said of the band festival. “Every program in La Crosse area has great teachers and great history.”
Chapman said it was good for his students to hear other bands play and nice for him to be able to mix with directors from the other schools.
Performing in a public space is a great experience for students, he said, while playing in a band regularly offers something special to his students.
“Band kind of slows down the days,” Chapman said. “It’s kind of a release from everything else and it’s a mental but also a physical exercise, an individual skill but also teambuilding.”
Larry Albrecht was one of the master adjudicators with the WSMA who listened to the bands at the festival and then offered some tips to them at the end of their performances. Albrecht is from La Crosse but was a band director in Fennimore, Wis., for 38 years before retiring.
“We hope it’s a learning experience for the bands to hear from someone else,” he said.
The groups that played Tuesday were a fine testament to the quality of the music programs at their schools, Albrecht added.