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Play it again! After restructuring, band program looks to make a comeback

The instrumental music program in Perham is hitting all of the right notes after some restructuring this summer.

Superintendent Mitch Anderson said that when he first came to Perham, he was surprised at how small the band program was compared to other districts.

Part of the problem was attributed to scheduling, he said. All the music classes used to be held at the same time.

“The way it worked, (high school) students needed to pick choir, band or orchestra,” said Anderson.

In addition, the music classes also conflicted with college-credit courses.

Schedules were reworked over the summer, and Anderson hopes that students will now find it more manageable to fit music into their days, resulting in a “happy meeting” for all.

Another notable change came after Larry Wankel’s retirement. He taught band in Perham since 1986. This year, Kristine Schuldt started her turn as the band instructor at the middle and high school levels.

“We’re trying some different things this year,” said Schuldt.

She’s been introducing more concert and marching-style pieces at the middle school, while the high school band is typically playing jazz-style songs, partially because there are only 12 students and “a lot” of saxophones.

Some students needed convincing that the new direction would be fun, said Schuldt, but they’re coming around now.

The high school band held its first concert of the year on Monday night, and the seventh and eighth grade combined band had its first pep rally performance at a homecoming celebration earlier this year.

“I thought they were just tremendous,” said Anderson of the show at the pep rally. “The energy was just through the roof.”

“I’m really impressed with how she’s getting the product out there,” said Prairie Wind Middle School Principal Scott Bjerke of Schuldt. He said he hopes that getting kids started in band while they’re younger will help “get that spark going.”

Before, during the budget crunch years, fifth grade band was cut. It was recently restored.

On the other hand, former orchestra students are still waiting for their time to play.

This spring, it was decided to make orchestra, which had struggled with low enrollment numbers, a co-curricular activity instead of a regular class.

The district’s activities director, Erin Anderson, and the high school principal, Ehren Zimmerman, are still working on getting the orchestra figured out, according to the superintendent.

The cut was a tough decision which took years for the school board to make, he said, “But it was hard to look at the numbers and keep the full-time orchestra position.”

Looking ahead to the future, Schuldt said, “It would be nice to have marching band here again.”

She was involved in marching band and drum line through her own educational career.