Kalamazoo College's Student Newspaper
“This course, this band has failure written all over it,” said music professor Tom Evans after his Instrumental Methods class performed Monday on the steps of the Light Fine Arts Building. The course brings musicians of all levels together to learn to play brass, wind and percussion instruments.
In Instrumental Methods, students master a selection of beginner songs that range in genre from folk to blues to classical. “I tell [the students] that we’re going to sound like a really good middle school band,” Evans said.
The students showed off their newfound skills during the afternoon concert. “It doesn’t sound professional,” warned Jenna Holmes (K’15), an oboe student, ahead of time. “It’s fun anyway.”
Evans said the class is divided into thirds by skill level. One third of students have years of music experience, but must learn to play a new instrument. They bring their note-reading skills and musicianship to the class.
Holmes falls into this category. She has eight years of flute experience. Her decision to take up the oboe stemmed from her band history. “There was a girl in my high school who made the oboe sound like the prettiest thing on the planet, rather than a dying duck,” said Holmes.
A second third of students played for a couple of years in middle school but dropped instruments for other activities, said Evans. These students do not have refined skills, but are no strangers to music.
The last third of students have never played music in their lives. “They’re the ones that grow the most,” Evans said. “They’re the ones that just grow in leaps and bounds.”
Together this collection of students learns to perform as a complete group. “The class gets a kick out of it,” Evans said. “They were pumped.”
Evans said he enjoys seeing the students grow throughout the class. At Monday’s concert, he reminded audience that the students had improved greatly since their first week of class. “Eight weeks ago these guys couldn’t even put their instruments together!” he said.
The group performed a selection of 22 short songs. Most included the whole band, although a few smaller ensembles played together. Evans chose a non-traditional finale number: “Beverly Hills” by Weezer. He said he first heard it on the radio and came across it again when researching music for beginning bands. “If you listen closely, there’s a lot of rough syncopation,” he said.
The crowd size fluctuated throughout the performance, with people coming and going as they wandered by the building. Students mostly came to see their friends perform, they said. Several parents showed up to support their children. “[The concert] went exceptionally well,” Evans said. “I couldn’t be more pleased.”