2012-05-31 / Schools

CVUSD music programs envy of state

CONCERT REVIEW
By Cary Ginell

You can never really fathom how huge the stage is at the Fred Kavli Theatre until Conejo Valley Unified School District’s All- District Music Festival takes place in May each year.

That’s when all of the school musical organizations converge on the Civic Arts Plaza over 10 days of activities.

All told, some 5,000 students out of the 22,000 in the district take part in the festival, with as many as 600 appearing onstage at one time.

As Ed Jones, director of the Conejo Recreation and Park District said in his introductory comments, CVUSD’s arts program is the envy of other districts throughout the state.

Superintendent Jeff Baarstad pledged that, despite the drastic budget cuts in Sacramento, “we will not cut a penny” for the arts programs in the Conejo Valley.

The festival is produced by the Conejo Schools Foundation in coordination with the city, the school district, the Arts Council of the Conejo Valley and the park district, along with community sponsors, notably Mary and Richard Carpenter.

The concert consisted of four groups, each performing three numbers, progressing from firstyear beginning students to the seasoned Thousand Oaks High School Lancer Band.

An underlying theme was music from cartoons of the 1950s and ’60s, an unusual choice since the songs presented are barely remembered by many of the parents in the audience, much less the kids.

Band One was led by Michelle Hagen, who came onstage wearing giant four-fingered Mickey Mouse gloves, removing them to conduct “The Mickey Mouse March,” a song every child in America knew . . . 50 years ago.

First-year students play unison melodies with simple four/ four rhythms. As they get more experienced, complex rhythms and countermelodies emerge. Janine Delwarte and Kimaree Gilad led the group through Delwarte’s own “Little Bid of Swing” and Ron Cowherd’s arrangements of the traditional “Boot Scootin’ Barn Dance.”

Band Two, consisting of advanced elementary and beginning middle school musicians, played Brian Balmages’ “Ceremonial March” (conducted by Sandee Langlois), followed by a medley of early American folk songs, including “Chester,” “Amazing Grace” and “Yankee Doodle” (again led by Delwarte).

Hagen returned to conduct one of the most famous cartoon theme songs of the ’60s, “The Flintstones.”

Advanced middle school students populate Band Three, which began with an animated David Blake acting out “Stomping on Ants” by stamping on the stage in rhythm to the song; flutes represented the ants’ melody, while the low brass simulated the stompi ng. Red- wood Middle School’s Adam Payne got a rousing ovation from the audience, which included many former students.

Band

Three’s set concluded with Balmages’ “Jungle Dance” and another cartoon medley, this one consisting of “This Is It” (from “The Bugs Bunny Show”), an encore of “The Flintstones,” plus “The Jetsons,” “The Pink Panther Theme” and the Looney Tunes theme, “The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down.”

Thousand Oaks High School’s Marty Martone led the Lancer Band through a perennial festival favorite, Donald I. Moore’s “Rise and Shine March,” with each section of the band “rising” and “shining” with their respective solos.

The highlight of the concert was undoubtedly Robert W. Smith’s “Inchon,” a stirring tribute to the amphibious landing of troops during the Korean War.

With evocative solos played by Martone’s daughter Anna on flute and Jaclyn Belleville on English horn, the piece featured thundering drums played from all levels of the theater.

The concert concluded with an Armed Forces salute, which featured the theme from each branch of service.

Always a treat for students and parents alike, the All-District Band Festival best demonstrates the progressive evolution of students’ musical capabilities.

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