March Musical Madness

Conductor+Jim+Otto+conducting+combined+wind+ensembles.
Conductor Jim Otto conducting combined wind ensembles.

Conductor Jim Otto conducting combined wind ensembles.

Wendy Loncar

Wendy Loncar

Conductor Jim Otto conducting combined wind ensembles.

Rebecca Loncar, Staff Writer

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March is a time known for basketball brackets and the “madness” of the NCAA Tournament, but the Milford High School band program has some craziness of its own kind.

On March 6, the Milford High School band combined with the Lakeland High School and IA Bands to put on an amazing concert. Students stayed after school, and when the bands from Lakeland High arrived, they worked together with bands of the same level.

Our wind ensemble worked with Lakeland’s, our symphonic band worked with IA’s, and the concert band worked with Lakeland’s symphonic band. The environment fosters creativity. “Spending time with so many great people in such a musical environment is just amazing,” said sophomore Madison Hinman. The band students also worked with guest conductor Jim Otto.

Otto was a teacher in the Chelsea School District for 37 years who recently retired and is now teaching at Albion College. He is a former graduate of the University of Michigan.

“My favorite part of music is honestly teaching it,” Otto said. “Watching students work together and blossom is really rewarding.” None of the students had worked with him before, but it went extremely well. He not only worked with the students to practice their music but also conducted the music at the concert, proving the students’ ability to work with a conductor that they had never worked with before.

“I didn’t really have any expectations coming in to today. I was open to new ideas and experiences,” Otto said.

Students from all three schools spent a lot of time together to create a beautiful concert for everyone involved. The students began their days together at 3 p.m. Each band had 40 minutes on stage in a rehearsal with Otto, a homework period, and an activity period with a movie to watch. Then there was an entertainment hour where a band featuring saxophone player Mr. Palise, which everyone enjoyed.

Having a conductor come in and work with students for the first time shows off the band program’s skill to adapt and learn. “Playing under a different conductor, seeing how they interpret the music and manage their time is such a cool part of March Madness,” says junior Chris Antrim. Milford’s bands began working on their music at the beginning of December, right after their winter concert. Otto’s favorite part of working with the students was when students were asked a question and hands shot into the air.

Although it’s a time to work together to create beautiful music, there also is a competitive aspect to the event. These included working to have the best tone, posture, and work ethic. These qualities, as well as seeing each other each year, push each band to grow in the time apart. There is always a competitive aspect of music, not only with others but also with yourself.

The most difficult part of music in Otto’s eyes is, “The time and dedication to face the fact that mediocre is never good enough,” he said. “You always have to work harder, and work to not be mediocre.”

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