The Onalaska Middle School’s 7th 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 Holmen, La Crosse and La Crescent.

Garret Clements, one of the members of the Onalaska group said he enjoyed “working together as a group to create a wonderful sound.”

Listening to bands from other schools play at the festival was an interesting experience, he added. Clements is one of the 77 members of the Onalaska 7th grade band, which is led by band director Val Gaffney.

“It’s a great learning experience,” Gaffney said of the opportunity for her students to listen to the bands from other schools.

Gaffney said playing in a band offered her students the opportunity to both excel individually as musicians, while also learning to work as part of a diverse team.

“Personally, in our increasingly technological world, I think being in a group like this is huge for students’ life skills,” she added.

At the end of each performance at the band festival, expert judges from WSMA took to the stage to offer a critique.

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.

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