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Making a 
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student-style

Published: Friday, Feb. 10, 2012 7:33 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, Feb. 10, 2012 7:38 p.m. CST
Caption
(BCR photo/Donna Barker)
Princeton High School band members Ryan Jensen (from left), Lance Jensen, Austin Burrows and Patrick Reeves rehearse their music for next week’s annual PHS winter concert, set for 7 p.m. Thursday at the high school. Both Ryan Jensen and Patrick Reeves have written compositions which will be included in the concert.
Caption
(BCR photo/Donna Barker)
PHS band members Kerry Ryan (left) and Jacqueline King study their percussion music during a recent rehearsal. The PHS band will perform a variety of music styles, including classic marches and jazz numbers, during its annual winter concert, set for Thursday in the Sally Skinner Council Auditorium.
Caption
(BCR photo/Donna Barker)
Princeton High School band instructor Laurie Bonner directs her band during a rehearsal of “VooDoo,” a modern composition designed to teach students about aleatoric music, also known as chance music. The piece will be performed in the dark, with the exception of the percussion, at Thursday’s annual winter band concert at PHS.

PRINCETON — Original student compositions and music in the dark await family and friends at next week’s annual winter concert by the Princeton High School band.

PHS senior Patrick Reeves and sophomore Ryan Jensen are two of the students who will have their compositions played as part of the winter concert, set for 7 p.m. Thursday in the Sally Skinner Council Auditorium at PHS.

For his composition, Reeves took the melody line of an Irish folk song, “I’ll Tell Me Ma,” and wrote the accompaniment for percussion, flutes, trumpets, trombones and tubas. It’s a very upbeat, quick piece and it will be cool to hear the whole band play it, Reeves said.

Jensen said his composition is a Drum Corps piece, “Untitled #4,” with lots of complex rhythms. He had completed three other pieces for the class composition project but wasn’t satisfied with them, so he threw them out. He’s pleased with his fourth and final piece, which he described as a very guttural and punchy sound. Like Reeves, Jensen said it feels good to have his music among those chosen for the winter concert.

PHS band instructor Laurie Bonner said the original compositions were part of a class assignment for her students. In her percussion class, students were assigned to groups and asked to write a percussion ensemble at 1 minute, 30 seconds in length and with at least 17 different rhythmic figures and elements, which they had studied in class.

“I did not give them too many parameters because I wanted to give them room to think critically and creatively,” Bonner said. “This is the first time I’ve assigned a composition project to the percussion class, but I think they did a great job with it. It’s been fun for me and the students alike to work on their own compositions and see how they turned out. It’s even more exciting for students when they reach that moment when it all comes together because they are finally hearing with their ears what they heard in their head when they were composing.”

In addition to the student compositions, Thursday’s concert will also feature a song called “VooDoo,” which is a performed entirely in the dark, audience included, with the exception of the percussionists who will have covered stand lights and music. Aside from a few cues, most of the piece is performed without a conductor and is student run, based on different cues. The piece will sound different each time it is performed, Bonner said.

“The students have really enjoyed learning this piece,” Bonner said. “It has pushed them to work better together as an ensemble, and it has opened their ears to hearing music in a very different way.”

Among other selections for Thursday’s concerts are “Amazing Grace,” a medley of John Philip Sousa marches and a medley of jazz numbers. Tickets for the concert are available at the door at $4 for adults; $3 for students and senior citizens; and free for PHS students with a school identification.

In looking at the process of selecting music for each year’s performances, Bonner said the process actually begins the previous year. She looks at how students have been playing and what musical goals she’s trying to reach in the new year. She takes into consideration student interests and tastes. She also takes into consideration the freshman class and how those band members are acclimating into the high school band program. The final selections aren’t made until the band sight reads each piece a couple times, and she determines which pieces work best, Bonner said.

“My overall goal as a band director is to help students become independent, life-long musicians,” Bonner said. “I want to give them the skills to be able to continue making and consuming good music for the rest of their lives, without needing someone there to tell them how their part goes or to remind them to make a nice tone. This year’s selections have pushed the students, and they have worked hard to grasp the difficult pieces.”

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