The halls are alive … with the sound of music

Rockford’s high school band department recently had some gifted young musicians participate in college honor bands. These opportunities were presented to Robert Bloom and Heather Bloom through RHS Band Director Jerald Ferdig’s recommendations.

Prior to their nominations, Ferdig identified them as dedicated band members he felt could shine playing amongst their peers in a college concert experience.

And, from the sound of it, he was right.

Robert Bloom was excited to learn that he’d been chosen to participate in a two-day event at Gustavus Adolphus College. He plays the Euphonium.

In layman’s terms, Robert explains, it’s a baritone, like a small tuba, that plays the same notes, but with a different sound.

For Robert, an avid band enthusiast for years, getting the chance to participate in a band experience of this caliber was something he won’t soon forget. Robert’s trip to Gustavus included a full night’s stay, all accommodations included, in a college dorm filled with music majors.

Robert’s initial excitement over being singled out for this big band break was met with the same, along with some parental pride, by his parents, Maria and Steve, who have always encouraged him, he’s quick to add.

The inspiration, coupled with a taste of college life, made this the kind of experience Robert hopes some of his band mates will get the chance to try for themselves.

In fact, he highly recommends it.

Heather Olsen, also a sophomore, made a similar debut at St. Olaf College in Northfield. She plays an instrument that readers, who are not musicians, may be more familiar with: the saxophone.

She’s been in band since fourth grade and has always loved playing. She finds music a fun, fulfilling and relaxing way to express herself, and looks as comfortable with her sax as she does a backpack. It may be in her DNA, her mother is musical and plays both clarinet and piano. Actually, the Olsens make music a family outing, parents Pat and Don escorting the entire family to whatever concert or event their offspring are participating in. There’s a lot of support for Heather and her sax, and it shows. She lights up just talking about her time at St. Olaf, and it’s not too hard to see why she was chosen to participate.

Heather’s experience included a full, 8 to 5, day of practice with one piece brought in for sight-reading just an hour before performance time. A quick study, and surrounded by other dedicated young musicians, the outcome was successful. A different kind of test than what she’s used to, she learned something about herself: She knows her instrument and can perform under pressure, a valuable lesson.

Both Robert and Heather, who performed at their respective concerts in November, credit Ferdig, without reservation, as contributing to their musical accomplishments. Heather remarks that there’s a level of comfort in the band room that allows her to try new things she might otherwise not, helping her to grow as a musician.

For a relatively small school, RHS regularly, and continually, receives state recognition in band, choir and performance art. Emilie Villaume, also a sax playing sophomore, was nominated to the St. Olaf Honor Band, but was unable to attend.