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20th Oregon Band Extravaganza adds dash of seasoned alums

The 20th Annual Band Extravaganza added a dash of seasoning for its 2014 audience last week—28 to be exact.

That’s the approximate number of alumni from Oregon and Mt. Morris schools who brought their instruments to the Blackhawk Center and played Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” shoulder to shoulder with students grades 5 through 12 on March 18.

Leona Nelson, Mt. Morris, started the evening off when she stepped in as guest director to open the show.

“It’s a great honor I have tonight to lead the ‘Star Spangled Banner’. I feel like I just won the gold medal at the Olympics,” said Nelson, whose children and grandchildren have all been band students.

She thanked the school district’s band directors, Miles Beske and Andy Eckardt, for bestowing her the honor of guest director.

“I also want to thank all you parents and grandparents that are here tonight and make sure that these wonderful young people have the opportunity to experience music,” she said. “Music is that universal language. A sharp and a flat and a middle C will be the same all over the world. And the experiences and the disciplines these kids have learned here at Oregon High School will stay with them their whole life. What a wonderful opportunity we have living in this country and in this community.”

After the National Anthem was played, band students from the fifth and sixth grade each played three selections.

Three soloists—OHS alums Kelly Askam and Robb Taylor, and Beske’s son Zach Masa-Myers—each played with the six graders in a tribute to The Beatles.

Following selections by the seventh and eighth grade and high school bands, Beske stepped in front of a microphone and showed his proficiency on the flute, playing Concertino by Cecile Chaminade.

Then alumni and all the students played “Ode to Joy” with fifth graders adding to the encore conclusion with a “pop” from paper bags placed under their seats during the 1812 Overture.

The event, which also included a pasta dinner, serves as a fundraiser for the band program.

The high school band program is trying to raise $25,000 to purchase new, lightweight and modern marching uniforms to replace the existing 17-year-old uniforms.

During the concert, the Oregon Boosters Club donated $2,000 and the Autumn on Parade festival gave $1,000 toward the effort.

Donations of any amount are still being accepted. Call Eckardt at 815-677-0873 or email him at for more information.

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