By Chris Baldus | firstname.lastname@example.org
CHARLES CITY — The spring concert for the Charles City High School Symphonic Band and the String Orchestra is special every year as seniors say goodbye to their music family.
This year, it was special on a whole new level. And sad.
Monday’s performance was Director Nancy Western’s finale with the full Charles City orchestra. She has accepted the school district’s early retirement offer and will be done at the school year’s end.
Alumni, parents and peers took turns speaking on stage at the North Grand Auditorium to tell her how grateful they were to her.
“I think I don’t know what to say except every day I had the privilege of coming to school to a job that I considered not as much a job as a calling,” Western said. “I was lucky to land in a place that had a community that supported its school and a community that appreciates the the arts.”
Monday also marked the final concert band performance for the class of 2017. Eight years earlier, they were fifth-graders joining the band for the first time and they did it as the then-newly hired director, Jacob Gassman was just getting started in Charles City.
Gassman said of Western that he is starting to make a long list of the tasks that she did to help his band program successful.
Orchestra parent Liz Hamm said Western’s 4-inch stilettos will be hard to fill.
“Your commitment to the orchestra program and the arts program in general is monumental,” Hamm said. “We have watched you fight with everything you have on a number of occasions when the orchestra program has been considered during budget cutting.
“We have watched you give the time whether it’s early in the morning or late in the evening or on a weekend, to give whatever time was needed to make this program successful.
You go above and beyond your job as a teacher, and for that not only will … I be eternally grateful, but the entire student body and their parents.”
She closed referencing words of advice Western’s spoken hundreds of times over the years.
“Enjoy time with Lyle and the boys, travel and love life, but always, always ‘remember to make good choices,'” she said.
The graduating band and orchestra members are:
- Brittany Bilharz, violin, daughter of Shelly Stevens
- Ana Calixtro, clarinet, daughter of Juan and Nicole Calixtro
- Dalton Cleveland, bass, son of Chris and Dave Cleveland
- Hunter Cother, tenor saxophone and color guard, daughter of Kris and Joey Cother
- Ally Effle, viola, daughter of Jay and Lori Field
- Merryfield, violin, daughter of Ruth and Jeff Field
- Autumn Gerber, trumpet, drum major, daughter of Kim and Randy Gerber
- Caroline Groesbeck, trumpet, daughter of Catherine and Russell Groesbeck
- Olivia Hake, percussion, daughter of Tim and Theresa Hake
- Karissa Jensen, trumpet, daughter of Scott and Sarah Jensen
- Jocelyn Lewis, flute and violin, daughter of Tim and Rochelle Lewis
- Joshua Livingood, violin, son of Mark and Robin Livingood
- Lindsey Martin, clarinet, daughter of Tom and Koke Martin
- Hannah Menken, color guard, percussion, drum line, daughter of Kim and Tory Menken
- Kaylee Michael, viola, Liz and Terry Hamm
- Abby Milligan, violin, daughter Duane and Kolleen Milligan
- Alex Riley, bass, son of Emily Meyer and Rick Riley
- Cheery Schultz, cello, daughter of Craig and Belen Schultz
- Sierra Walker, cello, daughter of Charles and Tracy Walker
- McKenzie White, alto saxophone and tenor saxophone, daughter of La and Leroy White
- Isaac Wink, alto saxophone and drum major, son of Jeff and Lori Wink