Will march in parades
At a flag-raising ceremony last summer at the library, youth services director Lorene Forman scrambled together a collection of 12 band students to entertain with patriotic songs.
The music was a hit with the crowd and (then library director) Gil Chavez turned to Forman and said, "That was really cool. How about forming a library band? It would probably be the first one in the country, and they could play for parades and community events?"
The middle and high schools both have bands, but they don't perform in city parades, especially in the summer.
She noted Michael Preston's high school band did march in this year's homecoming parade from Jefferson County Middle School to Madras High School, and Skip Rundle's middle school band plays yearly for the Week of the Young Child Parade in April.
"It's hard for teachers to organize students for parades in the summer; it's like herding cats," Forman said, because school is out. "But it's a natural fit for my job, youth services, because I work with kids all year long," she added.
She approached Rundle and Preston with the idea and they said, "Sure, and let us know if there's anything we can do to help."
"They let me come into their classrooms and talk to students, let me hand out fliers, and lent us drums, a tuba and music scores to get this going," Forman said.
Forman has a musical background, but with stringed instruments, not marching band instruments. But that didn't matter, as she wanted it to be a student-led band.
At first, students said, "A library band? I don't get it." But soon a few joined, their friends joined, and by November there were 20 middle and high school students practicing to perform in the Madras Christmas Lights Parade -- with 10 additional kids interested.
The students chose their own conductor, junior Laura Garcia, and brainstormed their own idea for a T-shirt logo -- an open book with music notes coming out of it -- which sophomore graphic designer and library band member Natalie Shipp drew up for them.
The library had a budget for youth programs and was able to buy each band member a T-shirt.
"The kids put in huge amounts of time, practicing from 5 to 7 p.m., four times a week before the parade, and they really nailed the music," Forman said proudly.
Garcia, who plays the flute and tenor saxophone, said she was nervous at first. "The conductor's score has everyone's part on one paper and it took me two or three days to be able to see all the parts. Percussion was hard for me, too, because I'm not a drummer, but two upperclassmen joined and they helped," Garcia said.
The experienced high school band members mentored the younger middle school kids. "We had to teach them from square one: tuning, fingerings, air speed, and especially dynamics. But they're fast learners; I was surprised by that," she said.
"I remember the first time we got a whole section of music right. It was like -- we did it!" she said of the feeling.
Shipp, who also plays flute, said she joined the library band, "Because it's fun and interesting and I get to help other flute players. I like performing music and there aren't that many opportunities to perform besides concerts and piano recitals."
Supporters include Carrie and Norm Strawn, Stan and Kathy Sullivan and Beverly Forman, who lent the band a flatbed trailer, hay bales and a pickup for their parade float; Lloyd Forman for driving the pickup; band directors Rundle, Preston, and new library director DeRese Hall; the 509-J District for allowing the band to practice in the MHS band room and Westside band room, and all the kids' parents.
Forman said the library band will probably just practice once a week in the summer in preparation for the Fourth of July and fair parades.
"There will be opportunities for adults to participate in the future, but I want to keep it a youth-led band," she emphasized.