For many district fourth graders, tonight’s All-City concert performance is a nerve-wracking experience. For others, it's a chance to show off their newly acquired skills to proud parents. Students in grades four through eight will perform during the concert tonight at 7 p.m. in the Evans Middle School gym.
The district’s All –City Concert has been an Ottumwa tradition since 1945. While a few things have changed over the years, the concert continues to highlight the musical progression of students.
“I’m excited to perform in my first concert,” said Hayden Bates, another Horace Mann student. He plans to start learning the trombone next year as a fifth grader.
Teresa Thostenson, an elementary music educator, said she is still amazed every year how good 350 students sound when playing the recorder together. The process of learning to play their first instrument begins in the fall. By January, rehearsing begins in earnest to memorize the three songs. “Students are amazed at the things they thought they couldn’t do and now can,” she said. Thostenson will retire in May after 30 years in the district. She will miss watching students as their confidence builds.
Learning the recorder and participating in the concert gives younger students a chance to experience what it’s like to be in band and orchestra. The finale brings the entire group of students together. Orchestra and band students will perform “America” while the fourth graders sing.
Playing the recorder is also challenging, noted Thostenson. Fine motor coordination is required to use two fingers at the same time to cover the holes. “For some students, it’s a major struggle,” she said.
Parents attending the concert will note that students have yarn tied to the end of their recorder. It is part of the “Recorder Karate” curriculum used to teach. As students progress, they earn colored yarn, much like belts in karate. Students can earn up to nine different colors. After tonight’s performance, they will earn the gold yarn. “We can’t believe the difference it makes,” said Miriam Fenton, another elementary music teacher.