A feverish year of competition and accomplishment was capped at the 29th Annual Bandfest concert for the Nebraska City Public School band program last month. Musicians from fifth grade to high school senior performed with the fifth grade band, followed by the sixth grade, seventh and eighth grade, and, finally, the high school band. All the musicians got together for the final song of the evening.
Bandfest served as a moment of celebration which punctuated nearly 10 months of continued efforts.
The 2017-18 high school band got its year going in late July with a two-day preparation for their first march of the year at the Otoe County Fair.
Band camp continued after the fair with the band members focusing on getting a field show ready for the first halftime show of the football season.
Getting ready for competition was also a focus and the band answered the challenge by marching to a repeat championship at Hamburg’s Popcorn Day parade in September, followed by a runner up finish by less than one scoring point at the AppleJack Parade down Central Avenue in Nebraska City.
The NCHS band competed in field shows this past year as well with those being superior performances at an event in Falls City as well as the Harvest of Harmony in Grand Island.
These were the first field show competitions for the band, which had previously only marched for parade competitions.
Nebraska City plans to continue its field show competitions in 2018-19 and will be adding the state competition to its schedule. That march will take place in October.
Following football season and a fall concert, the band remained busy with pep band and preparations for district music contest, among other commitments.
One of the major non-competition highlights for the band was its fantastic support of the Veterans Day programs in November, which included a performance at the Memorial Way for the dedication of murals honoring the service of veterans in all of the country’s major conflicts.
Through it all, the band was able to count on a 20-member senior class that featured 17 four-year performers.
That experience was key to the band’s success at district music as the bar was definitely raised this year.
“The music we played for districts this year is the hardest music I have conducted,” said Band Director Emily Roth.
As the year drew to a close, the Nebraska City band was already looking forward to next year. Band leadership has already been selected and the senior-to-be group is just as large as last year’s veteran bunch. Eight of the seniors-to-be have been selected to the leadership group.
Roth said she thinks this year’s junior class is ready for next year’s hard work. It will be a process, which is only to be expected.
“It’s going to be hard at first because they’re going to have to step up in ways that they’re not used to,” she said.
Speaking of stepping up, the Nebraska City eighth grade band will need to maintain their level of musicianship from the end of this school year, raise that bar and then add skills related to the field show.
Unlike other activities, which may have a junior varsity where younger performers build up to the high school level, the newly minted freshmen will have to step up immediately, beginning at band camp in late July. Being at band camp, Roth said, will be essential as the ninth grade students adapt to the new environment.
Next year’s band will feature 75 musicians, down four from last year. But, with the loss of a large senior class, Roth said she was pleased with the number.
Going forward, Roth said she would like to see the band grow to between 90 and 100 musicians. Getting to that goal will take several years, Roth said.
The top priority for chasing that goal, Roth said, is to develop consistency throughout the band program and to be flexible so that kids can go out for band and still participate in other activities.
Roth said she appreciated the opportunity to lead both the middle and high school bands this past year because it allowed her to create uniform instruction.
Included in the instruction was a message of belonging. Roth said she wants the middle school band to feel like they’re part of the high school program already. That connection should help with retention when students are deciding whether they’re going to stick with band in high school.

For a picture of the senior class and a full roster of the band, from fifth grade to high school, see the Tuesday issue of the Nebraska City News-Press.