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Langley Middle School jazz students look to love for trip, repairs

Members of the Langley Middle School jazz band are preparing for a trip to the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in February. To get there, the band is looking for funding by selling tulips until mid-January. Pictured are band director Jessica Monett, Matthew Simmons, Sophia Falso, Sean Drake, Elizabeth Simmons in the front row; in the back row are Amelia Hensler, Mara Bush, Charlie LeWarne, Annie Saltee and Nick Simmons. Band members not pictured are Liam Twomey, Lily Bjork, Chloe Hood, Kari Hustad, Annika Hustad, Liam Henny, Catherine Ballestrasse and Diavonte Degrace. - John Ross Bush photo
Members of the Langley Middle School jazz band are preparing for a trip to the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in February. To get there, the band is looking for funding by selling tulips until mid-January. Pictured are band director Jessica Monett, Matthew Simmons, Sophia Falso, Sean Drake, Elizabeth Simmons in the front row; in the back row are Amelia Hensler, Mara Bush, Charlie LeWarne, Annie Saltee and Nick Simmons. Band members not pictured are Liam Twomey, Lily Bjork, Chloe Hood, Kari Hustad, Annika Hustad, Liam Henny, Catherine Ballestrasse and Diavonte Degrace.
— image credit: John Ross Bush photo

Performing at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival is a big deal for little musicians on South Whidbey.

Professional musicians speak with the Langley Middle School jazz band students about the industry. And for a lot of the kids, the trip itself offers fun as the sixth, seventh and eighth-grade students bus from Langley to Moscow, Idaho in late February.

“I really liked being together as a band,” said Mara Bush, an eighth grader. “For a lot of trips we don’t get to travel as a group, we travel in our own family’s cars.”

“It’s one of the highlights of the year.”

To get there, the jazz band needs money — lots of money. Funding for arts programs, including band, dwindled as the South Whidbey School District’s enrollment and budget shrank. This year the band will sell tulips by order to raise the needed $4,000 for the trip, instrument repair and new music. Cleaning instruments is inexpensive at about $50, but with middle school kids, repair is often necessary, at least that is according to one of their peers.

“When you’ve got middle schoolers handling instruments, they’re exposed to everyday life,” Mara said.

Tulips were available in red, pink and purple for $10 pots of five blooms. And the romantic Valentine’s Day gesture comes with delivery service by a Langley Middle School jazz band member between Feb. 5 and Feb. 9. Keeping the school’s music program alive has been a battle, but one worth fighting for Mara’s mom and the tulip sale’s chairwoman, Robin Bush.

“We know that the study of music teaches mathematics, good study and practice skills, personal responsibility, problem solving, team building, the power and rewards of diligence, and sharing, all while providing entertainment for others,” she said in an email.

The festival gives aspiring musicians a look at what professional instrumentation entails. It’s not always performing for the London Symphony Orchestra or as the violinist for the Arcade Fire. Musicians don’t sugar coat the experience of becoming or being a paid musician.

“Seeing the end of that work was really amazing,” said Mara, who attended last year’s Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival with the LMS band.

“You have to work really hard to excel at it, and practice, practice, practice.”

Come Feb. 19, all 17 Langley Middle School jazz band members will load a bus headed for the University of Idaho. It’s a lesson in patience for the kids.

“You learn to tolerate your friends,” Mara said.

Call Robin Bush at 360-321-2874 to order tulips.

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