"Let's tune!" a deep voice behind a shiny saxophone calls out. Trumpets, clarinets, flutes, saxes, a trombone and a violin lift up a chorus of notes. It is Wednesday afternoon in the Washington Island School's Commons Room, and instrumentalists aged 10 to 84 warm up their instruments.
The last time some of these band members played was one day ago; for others it was 50 years ago. But they all know the joy and fun that playing a musical instrument with others can bring.
A grant received from Door County Community Foundation is making the Island Band possible. Funding the director's time and cost of music scores, the DCCF is helping the Music in the School program extend its offerings.
Donna Briesemeister, school music educator, has continued to focus on choral music and music literacy, that is, the ability both to read and write music. In part, this has been in preparation for the possibility of the initiation of an instrumental program during this school year. Funding from the DCCF grant is helping to turn this vision into a reality.
Briesemeister explains, "In January we began twice-monthly rehearsals for any adults who were interested in playing in a wind-string ensemble. Some horns came out of the closets where they had been stored for 40 or 50 years. There have been some 20 adults who have attended rehearsals."
The intended purpose for starting this band has been to provide an incubator instrumental organization, which school students can join after achieving elementary skills on their own instruments.
Emily Hermanson, sixth grader, is one such participant. Having had one year of instruction on the flute, she took a chair next to Jim Morris.
"I'm here just to learn. And after I learn how to play 'Amazing Grace,' I'll be able to play with my grandma, aunt, and mom," she explained.
Jim Morris chimed in, "It's good for the Island, especially for our young people."
Wayne Boshka sat warming up his saxophone. He recounted how he used to play with others in a dance band here on the Island, making money to pay for college. The band, the Islanders, played every Saturday night at Karly's, and sometimes on Wednesdays.
"I like music," Boshka said, "so I thought I'd try it again for fun after 50 years. Donna does orchestrations, along with Jonathan Bass."
It was a year ago October that Donna Briesemeister joined the Music Festival Committee to explore the idea of opening the opportunity of instrumental music. With funding from the Musicfest and contributions of instruments from Islanders Carol Amadio, Dianne Kahlscheuer, and Barbara Greenfeldt, the initiative is taking root.
Briesemeister laughs. "I would not be honest, however, if I did not reveal that these rehearsals have proved to be the occasion for some high hilarity. Even if we did start out making only a 'joyful noise,' we are getting better over time. We also laugh over the simple pleasure of making music together. There's just nothing like it!"
Sharing this music fun is open to anyone who would like to come. All are invited to the next rehearsal on Wednesday, Oct. 24, at 3:45 p.m. in the Commons Room at the school. An invitation is also offered to those who might be able to donate or lend instruments for our students' use. You can reach Donna Briesemeister at (920) 847-2330 for more information.
In the meantime, we say "thank you" to the Door County Community Foundation for helping us sound joyful noises!
Photo: Emily Hermanson and Jim Morris play their flutes during a “joyful noise” session. Photo by Ham Rutledge.