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New director has big dreams for band

Dec. 4, 2006

At one time, Bay View High School, 2751 S. Lenox St., was known for its music program. The marching band, according to alumni, used to stretch for two blocks as members strutted down South Kinnickinnic Avenue in local parades.

That is the kind of spirit Bay View High School Principal Barbara Goss and new band director Nick Johnson want to revive.

Johnson said the school has had seven band directors in the past six years. Now in his first year at Bay View, Johnson aims to build the music program back to its former glory.

At the moment, the band has about 60 members, he said, but usually about 45 students are available for extra-curricular performances, such as marching in the downtown Milwaukee holiday parade. Many of the students work to help support their families, he said, making it difficult for them to attend special events.

"Some of our kids are in pretty tough situations," he said.

But Johnson plans to expand musical opportunities for the students. For some students, musical talent can be the difference between getting a college scholarship and not going on to school.

Music can also be a valuable means of expression for students. La Tasha Wood, who is in the class of 2009, plays bass clarinet in the band. She likes to play cymbals in the drum line, she said, "because I can release my anger."

Music can teach discipline and inspire students to reach for higher goals. Senior Travearest Young said he learned something by participating in the Milwaukee Public Schools Battle of the Drum Lines competition Dec. 2.

"We should have practiced a lot harder, but next year we're going to do better," Travearest said.

The Bay View Drum Line competed in the MPS Battle of the Drum Lines for the first time this year, Johnson said, and orchestra lessons are just beginning. He expects to form a jazz band next month.

"This program is like popcorn," Johnson said. "You get little pops right now. Next year it'll be a full bag."

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