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Playing with the big guns

Sixteen students from North and South Medford high schools will get a chance to perform with the big guns Monday when the U.S. Army Concert Band comes to town.

“Whenever we play music in band, you always look for the recordings and usually the best recordings are of the Army band,” said Anna Borth, a North Medford High School senior. “I just fell in love with how they sounded and how passionate they are.”

Borth and three of her bandmates from North Medford will join the band for the title song in the “America the Beautiful” concert featuring the 60-piece ensemble, accompanied by the 29-member Soldiers’ Chorus.

“I’m more excited than anything,” said Alex Yu, a senior. He’ll be seated among the rest of the first clarinets in the Army band.

He, Borth, Kelsy Biggs and Skyler Heumann won’t be the only Medford students on stage — they’ll be joined by four choir students also from North and eight band and choir students from South Medford.

Steve Kessler, band director at North Medford, is no rookie to hosting military bands. He was in charge of arrangements when the U.S. Marine Band and the U.S. Army Jazz Ambassadors came for other concerts.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun,” he said. The Medford School District takes responsibility for printing tickets and programs, as well as promoting the event in the community.

Kessler said he’s invited local bands and choirs, such as the Ashland City Band and Rogue Valley Symphonic Band, to the concert.

“Usually there are a lot of veterans or families of veterans that come because they know that it’s going to speak to them in some way and bring back good memories,” he said. “But also I think even now there’s kind of a new sense of pride and patriotism ... these guys go through boot camp and basic training but then being a musician is their job, to serve their country.”

It’s also a boon to students to see a live performance of a band that they’ve only listened to while learning their own pieces, he said.

“It’s good for our students to hear a band of this quality,” he said. “They can hear the recording but nothing beats live music.”

“Just hearing how they play their rhythms ... how they do their vibrato, their tone,” said Biggs, a junior flutist. “I just feel like it can help me progress in my own playing.”

All of the four North Medford band students plan on continuing their musical pursuits after high school. Yu, for example, said he wants to join some kind of ensemble in college while studying for a different career. Heumann and Borth, however, are considering studying music in college to become teachers or performers.

For now, though, they’re focused on perfecting their parts for the concert while their director continues to spread the word.

“Mr. Kessler said the other day ... you might never get to see this band ever again,” Borth said. “It really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The “America the Beautiful” concert will start at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 22, in the Central Medford High School Gymnasium, located at 815 S. Oakdale Ave., Medford. Tickets are free but can be reserved in advance at armyfieldband.com/tickets.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune{ } Kelsy Biggs, Anna Borth, Alex Yu and Skyler Heumann play their instruments at North Medford High School.