Just wait ‘til next season…and the next few years…as their playing vastly improves–and the Pelican performing arts auditorium project is completed

It was a strong stage debut for Pelican Rapids elemetary school music and band instructor Abigail Jirik, with her first Christmas-winter season concert. 

Fifth grade clarinet players at the Dec. 6 concert included Adrianna Abarca, Zach Heaton, Morgan Korf, Alaina Motz, Kallie Nettestad and Linea Thomas.

Waving her baton in front of the Viking school fifth grade band, the material ranged from Jingle Bells and Old St. Nick–to Hot Cross Buns, Rain, Rain Go Away and Merrily We Roll Along. All were performed  more-or-less magnificantly, with hearty applause from an audience of parents and family December 6.  Jirik returned the praise, with a sincere thanks to parents for encouraging their children in band. She asked the parents to deliver a round of applause ­– for themselves.  

“Thank you for sharing your kids with me,” said Jirik, a Hawley area native and North Dakota State University graduate spring 2018; in her first position as a music educator. 

Both Jirik’s first year band students, and director Sean Fitzsimmon’s sixth graders played on the “big stage,” the new Pelican high school fine arts auditorium. Jirik is off to a great start in her new career.  “She is having an awesome first year,” said veteran bandsman Fitzsimmons of his rookie colleague Jirik.  “She is so enthusiastic and so confident for her age…I know I wasn’t when I first started,” said Fitzsimmons. 

If you’ve been to Pelican school sporting events, and witnessed the famous, high-energy, Viking pep band in action; these elementary school bands are a glimpse at where it all starts.  

In the beginning…it is youngsters in clip-on neckties and bowties; in colorful Sunday dresses; wearing shiny, happy faces–optimistic about their musical horizons, even as they perform discordant variations on “Itsy Bitsy Spider.”  

Stage right, there’s typically a couple of underweight kids huffing and puffing into oversized tubas. 

Pelican Rapids Viking elementary’s new general music and band teacher Abigail Jirik, conducting her students in her first winter and holiday band concert. The spring 2018 North Dakota State University graduate and active member of the Gold Star Marching Band, is in her first position as a music educator.

It is highly doubtful tuba was their choice of instrument. 

Clever band directors have developed convincing  explanations for parents as to why you can’t stage a band with 20 trumpets, 15 clarinet players, a dozen flute players, and one-hundred-forty-nine drummers.  Somebody simply must play tuba…and “you know, I think your little boy Johnny has the right stuff to be a marvelous tuba player…”

And…if mom and dad aren’t buying the tuba sales pitch, you hit ‘em with the trombone, baritone, tenor saxophone or french horn angle. 

Depending on the band director’s sales skills­, kids like Kayla Richardson end up on tuba; Josiah Banton picks up the baritone;  Josie Koch wields a French horn; Taylor Langseth maneuvers the slide trombone; and Zayli Arrow honks on the tenor saxophone.

And…with the band director’s continuing determination–combined with parental support and, frankly, a bit of luck–some of these kids are still toting around tubas and trombones when they are seniors in high school. That’s when the music really starts to happen; as well as the friendship and comradery formed among young people through the joy of music. 

The Pelican Rapids fifth grade drum and percussion section, at the Dec. 6 concert. Members of the section included Hunter Hanson, Maclain Hovland, Kirra Johnson and Jackson Peasley.

“Band is really a fun thing to be a part of,” said Fitzsimmons to the audience December 6.

Astonished by the musical advancement of the bands from grade 5 to grade 6, one parent commented that the wonderful music, in one short year of development, really gives mom and dad something to look forward to.

Some of these young musicians may even continue on as adults to perform in college marching bands, in church ensembles, in military units; community bands; symphony orchestras –and, perhaps, Carnegie Hall. 

Pelican Rapids has its own Carnegie-like venue: the new Fine Arts Auditorium, which is among the finest facilities of its kind in the region. In the 5-6 grade band concert printed program, the work of the auditorium committee and chairman Lloyd Nelson was duly noted, for their “support of our performing arts center.”  The campaign for acoustic and technical enhancements of the concert and theater hall, plus a grand piano for the stage, are the focus of a multi-year campaign by arts boosters in the greater Pelican lakes area community. 

Grade six and high school band director Sean Fitzsimmons at the conclusion of the Dec. 6 winter and holiday concert–performed at the new Fine Arts Auditorium on the Pelican Rapids High School campus.

Five years from now, the important fine arts auditorium project will have completed the misson: “the dream of a world class fine arts facility.”

Five years…that’s about the time young Pelican grade school trombonists Jaxon Dalman and Maxwell Jegtvig; French horn player Grace Backstrom; baritone players Mariah Weishair and Anna Roisum; and “tubists” Dominic Krauth and Ayden Rotz will be playing a different tune on the Pelican auditorium stage. 

Instead of “London Bridge is Falling Down” or “Wish You a Merry Christmas,” these aspiring young musicians may be performing rousing John Philips Sousa marches and beautiful George Gershwin rhapsodies.