For more than 30 years, the Lake Agassiz Concert Band has entertained audiences with free performances while providing a creative outlet for experienced musicians throughout Fargo-Moorhead. But three years ago, the band wanted to find a way to make a greater impact in the community.
“One of our goals was to try to expand our audience, but we also wanted to inspire younger musicians,” says band president and euphonium player Tyler Rebrovich.
That’s why the organization launched the Allegro Grant to award a local middle or high school band program $1,000 for a specific project. In 2017, inaugural recipient Ben Franklin Middle School used the grant to attend a workshop with music faculty at Minnesota State University Moorhead. In 2018, Grace Lutheran School expanded its music library and hosted a band consortium with other regional middle schools.
This year, the band will award the Allegro Grant to the Oak Grove Lutheran School band to purchase a marimba for the percussion section. The Fargo private school will formally receive the grant at Lake Agassiz Concert Band’s “Allegro!” performance at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 24, at Horizon Middle School, 3601 12th Ave. S., Moorhead.
Renee O’Connor, director of bands at Oak Grove Lutheran School, says receiving the Allegro Grant marked a turning point for the band. For many years, the band substituted other percussion instruments for marimba parts, but it’s been like “playing basketball with footballs,” she says.
“The marimba sound is irreplaceable, and it permeates through the ensemble,” says O’Connor, who teaches band to more than 100 students from fifth to 12th grade. “It may seem like (having a marimba) only affects my percussionists, but it doesn’t. It changes the tonality of the entire ensemble.”
To apply for the Allegro Grant, which is funded through corporate and individual donations to Lake Agassiz Concert Band, each school had to submit a short but compelling video explaining its need for extra financial support. Its first year, the grant was only open to public schools in Fargo-Moorhead because the concert band “didn’t know what to expect,” Rebrovich says. But then he received an email from O’Connor that contained one simple, yet poignant sentence: “A $1,000 grant would literally double my budget.”
The Lake Agassiz Concert Band expanded the program to private schools “all because Renee sent that one email,” Rebrovich says. Oak Grove’s video showcased a series of melancholy students playing incomplete instruments to emphasize that a percussion section without a marimba “is like having half an instrument,” says senior percussionist Erich Froiland, who directed and edited the video.
“Not having a marimba is like not having a tuba: you can get by (without) one, but having one makes the band sound much richer and you can’t go back,” Froiland says.
Froiland has advocated for a marimba for a long time, O’Connor says. In the past, he emailed her a list of all the instruments needed in the percussion section, with a marimba at the top of his list.
“He is a senior, so to me it is infinitely important that we get a marimba in his hands before he graduates because he’s earned it,” O’Connor says.
Overall, O’Connor and her students are excited to see how adding a marimba will change the band going forward.
“Our profile (as a band) is growing,” O’Connor says. “That’s where awards like this can generate some excitement, especially for younger groups, to show them that (our band) is real and we are worth being a part of.”
This is exactly why the Lake Agassiz Concert Band started the Allegro Grant program, Rebrovich says.
“We want to inspire the next generations of musicians by exposing them to our band and helping them realize that band is forever,” he adds. “Music is always a thing you can do long after your back is gone and your knees are shot. You can’t play football, baseball or basketball anymore, but you can still play an (instrument).”
For more information on the Lake Agassiz Concert Band, visit lakeagassizconcertband.org.
What: Lake Agassiz Concert Band “Allegro!” performance
When: 3 p.m. Sunday, March 24
Where: Horizon Middle School Auditorium, 3601 12th Ave. S., Moorhead
Cost: Free and open to the public