By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Northborough – About 100 fifth-graders representing Northborough’s four public elementary schools are currently rehearsing for a band concert, which will be free and open to the public. The budding instrumentalists are rehearsing weekly in the band room at Robert E. Melican Middle School with help from 10 sixth-grade mentors. Concurrently, the fifth-graders are becoming comfortable in the environment where they’ll study next school year.
The All-Town Band returned in 1999, the same year when Rebecca Makara began as the fifth-grade band director for Northborough’s elementary schools: Lincoln Street, Marguerite E. Peaslee, Fannie E. Proctor and Marion E. Zeh. She co-teaches the All-Town Band with David Daquil, the sixth-grade band director at Melican. The bond between elementary and middle schools’ instrumentalists involves more than playing music, Makara noted.
“In 1999, the fifth grade moved from Melican Middle School back to the neighborhood elementary schools,” she explained. “At that point, the music department was looking for an activity to help in the adjustment. Kids were going from fifth grade with small bands of maybe 40 students to the middle school with a band of over 100. So the All-Town Band was resurrected.”
There had previously been an All-Town Band during another period of time when the middle school included fifth-graders. The band’s return has proven again to be successful.
“There’s been an All-Town Band whenever the fifth grade has been housed at the elementary schools,” Makara noted. “We usually have about 90 percent of the fifth-graders participate who are in the individual elementary school bands.”
The All-School Band is offered as an extracurricular activity in addition to weekly band rehearsals and lessons at each elementary school. Beginning mid-March, the fifth-graders have been bussed after school to Melican for weekly rehearsals.
The sixth-grade band director, Daquil, selected mentors who display leadership skills and maintain good academic standing in their Melican band classes. Sixth-graders chosen to mentor are Adam Beckman, Kyle Colebourn, Michael Desio, Lucy Furlo, Jace Golden, Kiera Lewis, Gavin Moran, Zoe Oelkers, Matt Pianka and Cozette Weng.
“Fifth-graders ask mentors about the middle school,” Makara said. “We’re looking for sixth-graders to be mentors who are strong musically and also feel comfortable talking about adjusting from elementary school to life as a sixth-grade student.”
While the focus of the nine-week program is to help fifth-graders with the adjustment, Makara has observed that it’s also beneficial for the sixth-graders.
“The sixth-graders become more self-reflective,” she said. “Working with fifth-graders, they realize how much they’ve matured in the past year. At that point, they get really eager to share their successes of sixth grade with the in-coming middle school students. It helps to make the fifth-graders who might be a little anxious about that transition feel more comfortable.”
For the fifth-graders, rehearsing at Melican also provides a preview of opportunities they can explore next school year. They get the chance to experiment with some instruments for the first time.
“We have so much more equipment at the middle school that we simply can’t afford at the individual elementary level,” Makara said. “For the percussionists, for example, they can enjoy playing timpani, gong and chimes. When fifth-graders visit the middle school for rehearsal, they get to hear a well-balanced band; we’ve got a good sample of every instrument that should be in a wind ensemble.”
Makara acknowledges that she appreciates directing the rehearsal process as much as the students enjoy participating as band members. She’s once again looking forward to their concert.
“There’s a different level of enthusiasm when you get that many 10- and 11-year-olds together in one room,” she said. “The energy bounces from me to them, and back and forth in this really exciting way – it just spirals the learning. It makes for a very exciting concert.”
The All-Town Band Concert will be presented Wednesday, May 17, 7 p.m. at the Algonquin Regional High School Auditorium.