May 12, 2010 in City

Thousands of elementary musicians put on concert

By The Spokesman-Review
Colin Mulvany photo

Mariah Smithson, 11, of Indian Trail Elementary, plays her viola Tuesday at the Spokane Arena during a practice session before the Band and Strings Spectacular.
(Full-size photo)

Fifth-grader Audriana Crawford was nervous about performing in her first Band and Strings Spectacular Tuesday in front of more than 10,000 people at the Spokane Arena.

But fellow viola player Ameara Nicholson had a piece of advice: “Just look at the music and pretend all the people in the audience are your mom.”

Audriana flashed her Bemiss Elementary School classmate a smile and relaxed her shoulders.

The two girls were among nearly 3,000 Spokane Public Schools fifth- and sixth-graders from the district’s 35 elementary schools – 400 more students than in previous years. The increased participation is a reflection of new curriculum in which students at 15 elementary schools are required to learn to play a musical instrument.

Bemiss sixth-grader Sidney Skaife was reluctant to take part in the new music program when she first heard about it. “At first, I didn’t want to. It’s a hassle carrying this to school,” she said of her clarinet. “Then I started having fun.”

Students and their instruments filled the Spokane Arena floor and overflowed into the first two rows of the stands.

Tuesday’s concert was the culmination of months of practices at school and countless hours at home. The event is a 20-year-plus tradition for Spokane.

The musicians entertained friends and family with favorites such as “Yankee Spirit March,” “Mother Goose Medley” and “The Blue Rock.”

The rock song “has been played by beginning bands since the beginning of time. It has a good beat. We like to make it fun for the kids,” said Dave Weatherred, the district’s music director. “The most amazing part is 600 people can start and stop together when they are in the sixth grade.”

Karen Budge, who teaches band at eight of the district’s elementary schools, said, “Every year, without fail, it’s a fun concert.”

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