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Niwot music's extravagant evolution


October 16, 2019

Michelle Nguyen

Mr. Hendricks leading the band at Niwot High's Music Extravaganza on Oct. 9.

It's so crowded that you can only shuffle through the doors on either side of the Niwot High School auditorium. People are milling about below, trying to find their seats, catching up with friends, proudly bragging about their students and how hard they work. After a little time, the chatter falls to a hush, the lights dim, and the Fall Musical Extravaganza begins.

The Fall Extravaganza has taken place annually for over five years, but in the last two, it has evolved. While various ensembles across the music department--including choirs, jazz bands, and the orchestra--still perform, this is only the second year where multiple groups perform together. "Last year, we had various groups combining as opposed to just a big group," explained Bjorn Cattell-Ravdal, a senior in both the jazz band and the orchestra. "This year, we had individual groups and the big combined pieces."

So, in addition to the individual numbers each group rehearsed, the choir, bands, and orchestra--nearly 200 students in total--all came together to perform three pieces at the end. "I thought it was empowering," said Donna Shaw, a freshman in the Sedalia choir.

This sentiment was echoed by both students and staff alike. According to choir teacher Laura Walters, "Working with other students gives them an elevated experience of what it's like to perform together." By including and working among the three sub-departments, a more communal atmosphere is accomplished.

"Each of the groups were all featured separately and they were all excellent, and then we were able to come together and perform together and it was awesome too. I think the takeaway is great music things are happening at Niwot High School," said band director Wade Hendricks. Thanks in part to the support from the administration, the flexibility from the students and the dedication of each musical director, this event and others like it are possible.

The collaboration was key to this year's Extravaganza: not only do the students get to perform with each other and understand other areas of the department, but the audience does as well. "It was my fourth year doing it, but now I get to see what the other bands and orchestra are actually doing," explained senior Chambers choir member Danielle Ellis. This sentiment of inclusion and knowledge was expressed by many, especially in regard to knowledge of music and its power to bring people together.

However, the music department is still in need of attention and support. Both Hendricks and Cattell-Ravdal expressed desire for the community to recognize the music department's hard work. Keyes Chen, the new orchestra teacher stressed the importance of community involvement as well, "I wish people can find out what the Niwot music department is doing...We deserve more recognition...Our groups are so good here, it's so well done, and the kids are really enjoying it."

Chen has also been pursuing a type of musical partners program, where musicians and other teachers can come in to help the students one-on-one. Such a program could be costly, however, and fundraising efforts are still in the early stages.

Michelle Nguyen

Ms. Walters leading the choir at Niwot High's Music Extravaganza on Oct. 9.

It's worth noting that many of the students interviewed, including Ellis and Jazz Mueller, a junior in Evenstar, were impressed with Chen and his work with the orchestra, "They blew me away!" said Mueller.

"It's really cool seeing all these different musicians from different groups coming together for this big finale," agreed sophomore Connor McGhee, a member of the Chambers and Evenstar choirs. It is evident that the music teachers are right: Niwot music kids enjoy what they do and they want the opportunity to share their skills with the rest of the Niwot community.

Hopefully, as awareness grows, and with the number of events between the sub departments, it's very possible that the music program will grow as a whole. "We will do the fall extravaganza every year," said Walters, "Especially as we've been molding it into something collaborative. I can't wait to see what all our programs do."


Reader Comments

AvidReader23 writes:

Great article! Good way to bring awareness to Niwot's fabulous program and their need for community involvement. Thanks!


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