In tune with program

By on April 9, 2014
Andy Fasnacht

OK, I guess I have put off writing this column long enough.

As someone pointed out recently, despite my reluctance to write much about my kiddos in recent years, I did write several times last spring about girls basketball when my daughter’s Lady Mounts squad had a miraculous run to the section title. I not only wrote about the accomplishments of the team and the girls I’d known since they were in braces and Barbie hairbands at the Rec’s youth leagues &tstr; I also talked about Morgan having to deal with an injury which basically cost her more than half her senior year. Oh and I also talked about Joelisa Harvest, who missed all her senior year…and Hannah Raezer, who missed…well you get the point. So the point this particular person was making in referencing the basketball writings was, “So why don’t you write about the accomplishments of the Ephrata music program your son’s been a part of now for several years?” The basketball thing came up when I tried to say I am reluctant to talk about these things for fear people will think I’m only interested because my kid’s involved.

Now certainly I have done some commentary here on the music program since my son entered high school back in August of 2012. But I recall also doing a pretty solid job of chastising myself for not getting more “tuned” in to what was going on with music over the years. In particular, I was ashamed that I did not understand what went into a marching band season or the complexities of a band competition. Regardless of whether or not my son participates in the music program, as a newspaper person I should have done a better job of understanding this key element in our community which has numerous branches and impacts many each year. And while we would never hold back on news of accomplishments by a local high school organization, I also should not hesitate to offer commentary on these programs either. For any delay in getting out my praise, I sincerely apologize.

I suppose the tipping point to getting this column out was the news last week that Ephrata and the School District of Lancaster were once again named among the nation’s “Best Communities for Music Education” by the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation. This marked the third time in recent years that Ephrata has received this distinction. While the award is based on funding, teacher quality, standards and access to music instruction, it is the execution and interactions within the program seen first-hand by parents and the community, and experienced by the students and teachers, which leave no doubt regarding its quality.

While son Ethan definitely was already heavily involved with music in the middle school with great teachers such as Steve Goss (band), Jill Klinger (mixed ensemble), Kristi Ohlinger (chorus) and Dan Clark (musicals) &tstr; it was in high school that it truly became a full part of his curricular and extra-curricular life &tstr; and we as parents had a front row seat for all that was happening.

Starting with marching band camp that summer of 2012 under then first-year man Adam Nobile, and continuing with all the other groups and ensembles led by Scott Fairchild, Richard Ney, Jackie Owskinski, Irving Gonzalez and Goss, the experience has gone way beyond high quality instruction. At the risk of sounding too trite, the music program truly has become a second home and family for Ethan and dozens of others in the district who take full advantage of all that is offered. However, on the first time through last year, it was indeed a struggle as a parent trying to figure out a way to balance the schedule, coordinate rides to and from school for a non-driver and work with all the instructors on how to handle overlapping rehearsals. Initially I began to think that maybe it’s just too much for him/us to handle. But then we quickly realized there are all these others students who have been doing the same thing for years. We began asking advice from the teachers, older students and their parents, then quickly learned how well everyone works together in this wonderfully collaborative environment. If you go to one thing instead of the other this time, then you go to the other the next. It’s not always that simple of course, but there certainly seems to be a general understanding among all that really allows a student to immerse themselves in the program to whatever depths they desire.

Indeed I am biased for what the program has brought to my son but I applaud what it has done for all these students &tstr; and I applaud the quality. We have watched the marching band grow under Nobile’s watch the past two seasons and while it was difficult to see him move on to another district, we are excited to see the familiar face of Goss take the reins, and are very confident in his abilities. Last year, I quickly learned what an amazing reputation the Ephrata jazz ensemble has in the region, when outside instructors sang their praises. Fairchild, even with so many talented seniors moving on each year, continues to mold this well-respected group as they crank out top-notch fresh material each year. Much of the same can be said about the percussion ensemble under Goss. After a recent performance at LancasterBibleCollege, several commented that the EHS group could easily trick the audience into believing they are not a high school ensemble. Gonzalez has also picked up right where Dave Dierwechter left off with the fall and spring productions in his second year here and has the students very excited and almost ready to go with Sound of Music, which opens in a little more than two weeks. Owsinski has repeatedly gone above and beyond with what she has done for Ethan and the other students in chorus and Camarata singers. Especially tricky here is dealing with boys whose vocal ranges are changing quite a bit in the early years &tstr; she has done an amazing job. Finally, Ney’s orchestra’s performances consistently draw among the biggest applause at each winter and spring concerts.

Then there is the man who kind of pulls it all together &tstr; Jim Kimmel, the chair of the music department. With his supportive and easy-going but focused demeanor, Kimmel keeps everything moving forward in EASD’s music program, runs the Tri-M Honor Society and its activities, and also coordinates the many outside community activities participated in by Ephrata students.

Out of all the compliments I could give, perhaps the most important could be how much fun the students appear to be having each and every day.

Striving for excellence surely is always a priority but seeing it done with lots of smiles and laughter certainly makes it that much better.

I apologize for those I may have missed in this commentary and let me be the first to say that part of my education of local music education, is also getting to know more about the excellent program at Cocalico. We have seen their quality marching band and jazz ensembles, and have heard about their amazing singers but, like Ephrata, have so much more going on there every day.

I just sincerely regret waiting so long to truly open my eyes, and mostly my ears, to this very important and exciting part of our schools

It’s never too late to get in tune.

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