Saturday, December 14, 2002
Steamboat Springs About a week before the Steamboat Springs High School band is to perform its annual holiday concert, conductor Dan Isbell was standing in front of the students, conducting and digging into the music.
The flutes and the clarinets played a melody to "Main Street Celebration," then were joined by the baritones before the rest of the band came in.
"There is a very gentle crescendo here," Isbell yelled above the music right before the entire band played.
The students followed his instruction, going from quiet to loud, to join the melody until the sound scattered and Isbell stops the music.
"OK, OK. My fault," he said.
He explained the rhythm is a little different at that part. The students chattered.
"Here we go," Isbell said, raising his hands to conduct. "Stop the talking. Stop the talking. We are so close to nailing this music, you have got to listen to me."
The young musicians stiffened in their chairs and kept quiet. It was the first class of the day; they have been rehearsing for about 40 minutes and are getting a little fidgety.
"Here we go," Isbell said, waving his baton. The flutes and the clarinets responded.
The rest of the students stared at their music, counting measures before they came in. The baritones played their part, and then the rest of the band eased in, as the first part of the song was played all the way through.
"Excellent job. Excellent," he said.
The band rehearsed for another 20 minutes. Isbell must squeeze as much work out of the class period as possible to make sure they are prepared for the show.
When he finally smiled and told the group to have a wonderful day, ending the rehearsal, the group collectively sighed in relaxation, like air being let out of a balloon.
"Band," sophomore saxophonist Lotte Spear said in the cafeteria after class.
"It's a wonderful way to start your day."
The band will perform six pieces at the Christmas concert on Tuesday night.
Along with "Main Street Celebration," the group will play "Christmas Jubilee," "Sleigh Ride," "In Times of Triumph," "A Hymn for Band" and "Greensleeves."
Isbell wants to keep his students interested and tries to pick music accordingly.
"It's got to be fun for the students. If we choose the right literature, they can still have a good time and become better musicians," he said.
Keeping teen-agers focused is not the easiest thing in the world, but Isbell's eight years as the head of band at both the middle school and high school has proven he's up for the job. He's also shown that he can get teen-agers interested in band. Five years ago, there were nine people in the high school band. Today, Isbell has expanded the program to 45 students.
Isbell has all skill levels in his high school band, from people in their first year on the instrument to state players.
"This is just a lot of fun," Isbell said. "There is never a dull moment."
The band plays its Christmas concert at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Steamboat Springs High School theater.