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Pequot Lakes bands take pride, passion into season's concert finale

On Monday, May 12, the Pequot Lakes bands concert year ended with a flourish of high notes and high fives for middle through high school concert band members.

In a program featuring folk and freestyle influences, music director Michael Sommerness began the evening by introducing his sixth-grade band students, saying, “Sixth-grade band is like a first hurdle for these guys, but once they get over it, they’re in it for good, often through high school.”

Indeed, Sommerness went on to later introduce, one by one, the graduating Concert Band senior members who were playing their very last concert for Pequot Lakes, some going on to continue playing next fall at their college of choice, while others at the very least taking with them the skills and pride of accomplishments they’ve earned.

The passion, and the pride, was so evident in this final performance of the Concert Band — the precision, the intensities, the syncopation of complex arpeggios on clarinet and flute, trumpet section playing in perfect bugle-style, tubas bellowing, saxophones chorusing, percussions outstanding, crescendos lingering and a band leader as adept in leading and upbeat-mentoring as he is in colorfully entertaining and describing for the audience the art at work behind the musicians.

The underlying value of that kind of mentorship called to mind a news story I came across on current pop favorite musician Pharrell Williams (CBS News, April 13, 2014, “‘Happy’ and grateful”). Williams, who bridges multiple generations with his hugely popular and influential styles (“Happy”; “Get Lucky”), spoke of his inspirations: the summer school band camp he joined where he met his first music teacher, and later on his many subsequent music teachers that followed, recalling all of them by name.

“My story is the average story, you know. It was filled with special people ... Well, what am I without them? Just try that for a second. Take all of my band teachers out of this. Where am I? I’m back in Virginia, doing something completely different.”

After the “On A Snowy Winter’s Eve” Pequot Lakes bands concert in December, this writer received the following email message from Pequot Lakes teacher Nicosia Danielowski: “Those of us who have children in band understand the importance of having a well-rounded education. I truly appreciate the efforts and passion of Michael Sommerness and also believe that my kids will be lifelong musicians because of his efforts.”

Not to be outdone by their band leader who had personally mentored them for so many years, taught them every skill he could, then honored their achievements before playing their last concert in front of family, friends and audience, the graduating seniors presented Sommerness with a medley of gifts to show their appreciation, happy and grateful, in their own very special ways.

Steven Olson is a freelance photojournalist with Flying Cloud Exposures, Baxter.