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Harvest of Harmony

Harvard Develops Musical Spirit

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Creating a positive culture one step and one note at a time, Harvard embraces its growing marching band.

The small Nebraska school encourages kids to perform all year, with a director who's added show choir and marching band field shows to their repertoire.

Students like Alexis Schuck have bought in. She said, "Our music department's a family and we all come together and work as a team."

She said that all started to change when Blake Thompson took over choir and band, from Kindergarten to 12th grade two years ago.

Schuck said, "Mr. Thompson has really brought Harvard to a different place. He's been a really good person. He brings our spirit out. We need school spirit and he's got that coming out."

"He's pushed us a lot harder and we're definitely getting better," Freshman Katelynn Piper added.

Drum Major Quinten Roberts put it simply, "He's just turned it around completely."

Thompson graduated from the University of Nebraska-Kearney and student-taught at Grand Island Northwest. He grew up near Sidney, where choir and band were his passions.

Now he shares that with his students in Harvard.

He said, "These kids are very spirited and excited about music. This program when I started has just ran and grown almost tripled in size."

"Before he came nobody wanted to go to band," Schuck said.

Roberts added, "Coming to band and choir was just another class."

But not now. The marching band has added field shows that they can perform at halftime of football games. They've also built a competitive show choir, and perform a school musical.

Thompson said, "The whole thing behind doing a musical and show choir and field show is to get our students performing all year long and always pushing for performance instead of having dead time or space where we weren't performing."

Harvard has added an elementary music teacher. There's also a flag instructor -- a band mom who also drives bus and works as a paraeducator. That's allowed Thompson more time with his junior high and high school students.

He said, "These kids get the full total experience in a small school. Friday night they did a field show, homecoming performance and people were genuinely impressed and it was a great feeling for all of us."

Katelynn Piper's mom helps the flag corps. The freshman flute player said adding the field show was a big achievement.

"I don't think they were used to it being a tradition, so they were like holy cow there's a
field show at Harvard and it was a raw feeling," she said.

"Everyone was like 'a field show? Harvard can't do that.' That's something we've never done
before and when everyone came out they were in awe and it was a good feeling for us," Alexis Schuck said.

Now about half the school is involved.

Thompson said, "It's just made a cultural shift here at Harvard in a very positive direction."

On Monday, the kids at Harvard may have been playing the James Bond theme, but they sure weren't sneaking up on anybody as they marched around town.

The band is making a lot of noise as the school embraces the music program.

Quinten Roberts, the drum major said, "We've got a young band so it's kind of a challenge and we have a lot more younger than older kids leaving, so really leaves a gap you have to fill pretty quickly."

They marched through puddles and past empty corn fields on Monday morning. It was a long route to simulate Harvest of Harmony.

Harvard's one of more than 90 bands taking part in the Grand Island Chamber's Harvest of Harmony parade on Saturday. The parade will air on NTV and KFXL Fox Nebraska.

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