Cool Vibes, Free Swag at Lincoln Band Extravaganza
Mention recruiting and what comes first to most minds are college sports and the military, not musicians. But Tuesday morning at Lincoln High an annual event demonstrated that the fine arts too make sales pitches to youngsters while they’re weighing their extracurricular options before reaching the high school fork in the road.
The annual Band Extravaganza was a toe-tapping, hand-clapping fieldtrip for some 500 band students from 14 elementary and middle schools in the Southside feeder pattern who were treated to an hour-long program that featured a brassy lineup of Rails instrumental ensembles: concert band, wind ensemble, jazz band, pep band and marching band (including drumline and color guard).
Longtime Lincoln band director Kevin Stegemann and his assistant Rachel Sullivan, who also teaches 5th grade band at three of the school’s elementary feeders; Lovejoy, Studebaker and Morris), bill the boisterous band show as a sneak peek for the audience at what’s in store for them when they become Railsplitters.
“This has been going on every year since I’ve been here,” said Stegemann, “so that’s at least 16 years.”
And it pays off. Lincoln has a strong band tradition that includes hosting the district’s annual All-City Jazzfest and carting home trophies from the festival circuit that’s part of the fall marching band season in addition to performances at home football games.
Stegemann likes to hold the Extravaganza the morning after the bands’ winter concert in the school gym, known as the Roundhouse.
“We just leave everything in place from the evening concert and bring in the younger students on this field trip the next morning,” he said.
Each group plays a tune or two. During the brief intermissions between ensembles free band swag like t-shirts and caps are flung into the stands. Stegemann also takes the opportunity to dispel some of the middle school myths that might otherwise deter budding bandsters from staying with it when they reach high school. It’s not true, for instance, that students can’t attend classes at Central Campus and Academy and still be in the band(s). Or that schedules don’t have room for sports and music both.
Take junior Jolynn Harris, for prime example. She plays tuba in the wind ensemble and marching band and trombone in jazz band. But she still found time to make a splash as a diver during the girls’ swimming season this fall, finishing 4th in the state meet (she was 5th a year ago) in a sport she didn’t take up in earnest until 8th grade.
“Yeah, I remember coming to this when I was in band at McCombs (Middle School),” she said while tossing t-shirts into the crowd between sets Tuesday. “I caught a hat and I thought that was pretty cool.”
The random grade schoolers that Stegemann pulled out of the crowd during the jazz band set must’ve felt pretty cool too. They didn’t get to sit in with the high school cats, but they did get to stand in with them and the vibes were definitely good (so was the rest of the band).
For the finale the marching band, clad in t-shirts emblazoned with this season’s program: How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse, deployed into the bleacher aisles, blaring the Lincoln fight song. They had their guests surrounded – and convinced that not only could they survive such a thing; it sounded like a whole lotta fun!