Joe LaChew began teaching music in the Carson City School District 20 years ago — the same year Bandorama started. LaChew plans to retire at the end of this school year, so Wednesday’s districtwide band concert was his curtain call.
“It’s bittersweet,” he said. “I love teaching the kids. But I’m 65, and it’s time to move on and do some other things while I still can.”
LaChew, the music teacher at Mark Twain Elementary School, directed the mass number during Wednesday night’s performance, in which all the band students from grades 5-12 played together.
The group number is a favorite among the students at the annual Bandorama concert, but it also is one of the most difficult to get right.
“I think it’s neat to have all the bands come together and play together,” said Lauren Szendre, 14, an eighth-grader at Eagle Valley Middle School. “Although it’s a good thing, it’s also very hard to create.”
The annual concert also serves as a gauge for the younger performers.
“It takes a lot of preparing, but it’s worth it at the end of the year,” said Megan Mitchell, 11, a Seeliger Elementary School fifth-grader. “It’s cool to see how far we’ve come since we started.”
Carson High School Band teacher Bill Zabelsky, who took over this year after 28 years in Douglas County, was happy to participate in his first Bandorama.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “It really shows the district’s support of the music programs. The kids are all energized, and it’s a lot of fun.”
And, he said, it serves as a road map for the younger students.
“Elementary kids and their parents can see where they will end up,” Zabelsky said. “I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”
Tommy Mahoney, 18, a trumpet player at Carson High School, remembers when he was on of those elementary school students looking up to the big kids, like he is now.
“I’m kind of sad it’s my last one,” he said. “It’s a good program. It teaches everyone to work together.”
It was a chance for LaChew to reflect on his own music career, which started in the Carson City schools. After graduating from Carson High School, he went on to play guitar professionally with bands such as the Righteous Brothers and The Drifters. In the early 1990s, he returned to the district to teach.
“I’m so grateful that the Carson music education program guided through my whole life in music,” he said.