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Write On: "Music and My Life" Essay by: Mitchell Berger

Essay by: Mitchell Berger

Roseau Community School

Mrs. Didrikson, Advanced English 11 Music is everywhere. People become immersed in creative works, use it to work harder, and listen just for personal enjoyment. This is the world that interested me in music. I distinctly remember watching Disney movies with my family and listening to the music that fit perfectly with the scene. Every single motion was well thought out and intentional. I could become fully immersed in the movies by the subtleties in the music. This fascination for the sounds that could make me feel whatever emotions the performers were trying to make me feel was what started my journey through flute, and music as a whole.

My mother was one of the first people who exposed me to playing music. She played oboe in college and knew enough music theory that she could play a little piano. I would listen to her just mess around on the piano and be amazed at what she could do, and wanted to learn how to play myself. I never took any formal lessons, and I mostly was just left to entertain myself, but I still found an interest in music. 

It all started with an audition. An audition with the director of bands at the University of North Dakota. Dr. Popejoy sat across the room from me and happily asked “What scale will you be playing for me today?” I was stressed out and my thoughts were racing through my head as I began to tunnel vision on Dr. Popejoy, and the solos I was about to perform for him. I said nervously, “I’m going to be playing A Major.” 

Roughly a month after the audition, our band director posted a list of all the people who made it into the honor band. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be on the list, but I still hoped that I might be. I checked the morning he put up the list and sure enough my name was highlighted in the flute section of the list. I was excited and wanted to tell everyone if they had or had not made it, but the band director made sure to tell us that we should not talk about it until he had a chance to talk to everyone who made it. 

Much later into the month, our director sent a message to all of the students who made the honor band audition. The message said to meet after school to pick up music. All of us were excited because picking up the music meant we could see how well we did against the rest of the competition, and how difficult each of the pieces were. Each piece of music had the performer's name written on it, a number, and a letter. The number signified what part of the music I was assigned. Within the flute section each piece had anywhere between two and four parts. The more exciting part was the letter. The letter was my chair within the part, or how good I was compared to the rest of the musicians around me. If a part had the letter A, then that part had a solid chance that they were going to play a solo during the concert. My parts were fairly far back in the rankings, as I was only a junior. Even though I was not the flutist with the best audition, I still made the cut and that was enough for me.

May 3, 2022

First All-State Selection from Roseau Band in More than 12 Years 

The first time I tried to take a band class was when I had moved to San Antonio, Texas, because my dad was in the Air Force. I was in 6th grade, and was trying to pick out classes halfway through the year. I tried to take a band class then, but was told that I couldn’t because they had already started playing. This of course made me sad but I moved on. The one class involving music that I was allowed to take was their guitar course. The first quarter consisted of the teacher telling people to buy a guitar and then from there we could actually begin to play.

Since my dad was in the Air Force, I knew I had to move again somewhere, and this time it was going to be halfway through my seventh grade year. I was moving from a school with huge classes and that was exclusively a high school, to a school where the entirety of the high school was smaller than my graduating class. This school was Roseau High School. After a year of playing guitar I could only hope that there was a guitar class, but unsurprisingly there was not. The only class I could take involving music was the seventh grade band class. Oddly enough, Roseau starts their band class in seventh grade rather than in 6th or below like most schools. Even though it was halfway through the year, they let me join the class. I picked out the instrument I would play throughout the entirety of high school. I picked the flute.

Seventh grade was tough for me. Every other student around me had been playing for a half a year or even sometimes more. I was still struggling just to make a sound on the flute. I remember working really hard to try and learn the notes and how to play them, but I had not been taught how to read music in my previous guitar class. Throughout at least a quarter of the year I dreaded going to band because I had to fake my way through most of the music. Of course, by the end of the year I was starting to pick it up, and I was beginning to be at the same level as most of my classmates. 

My eighth grade class was when we began to play some actual music. Previously, the class had been learning from music books, going from one 20 second melody to another. Towards the end of the year we started to play some introductory music written for beginners. Now we were taking time to learn some more difficult music and not working from a book as a class at all. I was not a good student in eighth grade. I practiced my flute very rarely and procrastinated the practice sheets until the last minute. I liked the class, I just did not have the self discipline to work on improving. 

The year I really started to work on learning to play the flute was my freshman year. In Roseau, the freshman year of high school is when musicians are put with every other older student in one band. Since every student is together, generally the music is more suited for the upperclassman and is extremely difficult for the new musicians in the band. I took these as personal challenges and worked hard trying to learn the music that was above my skill level. In order to keep myself focused I would practice after school in the band room. Sometimes I would still get distracted by other students also working on their music, but I rapidly improved. My sophomore year I went from second part, second chair, to first part second chair.

From there I started to learn the intricacies of playing the flute and music theory as a whole. Something that helped me immensely was that I auditioned for guitar in the jazz band and made it in. I began working harder to be able to play some more of the nuances in the music. As Dr. Popejoy, the band director at the University of North Dakota, would say, I was “Beginning to really make music!” 

The UND Honor Band was going to perform four different pieces, each much more difficult than any piece of music we had played in our high school bands. This began the month of preparation to get ready for the performance. We had to learn each and every piece on our own. Before the performance, we had three days of multiple hour long rehearsals. If I didn’t know my part, then there would be nothing I could do. We were learning our parts, and then at rehearsal learning how they fit into the rest of the band.

We reached the first day that rehearsals began. Myself and more than 15 other students were loaded into two vans and headed to Grand Forks. Like most rides, we sat and talked, played games, or just rested while we began to stress about the performance. Nothing of interest really happened, but we all were nervous about it. We arrived at the Chester Fritz Auditorium, and got ready to rehearse with the rest of the musicians who got selected. At least 100 people were there getting their instruments put together and waiting for someone to tell them where to go. Dr. Popejoy arrived and he announced where everyone was supposed to sit for the first song we would rehearse.

We spent multiple three hour sessions in a single day perfecting our work and learning to play together as a band. We got plenty of breaks and time to eat, but our rehearsals were still intense. I had not played for such a long period of time in one day. Many of the people there felt the same and were feeling very tired by the end of the day. The flute section also had a sectional, or a time to work as a section instead of the whole band with Dr. Bost-Sandberg, the flute Professor at UND. 

Our performance came and we were prepared. Dr. Popejoy worked extremely hard to get everything put together perfectly and we played our music wonderfully. We watched all the other groups perform and learned so much from watching other people perform. Mixed Choir, orchestra, women's choir, and so much more just back to back. Everything went perfectly, and everyone had become better musicians because of that experience.

The continued love and my increased effort towards all things music brings us to now. I am in my junior year of high school and have been taking lessons from the flute professor at UND, Dr. Bost. I have always had a love for music, and I am continuing to love music. For as long as I live, I hope to continue having music in my life.

Huge Accomplishment from the Roseau Band - Mitchell Berger

In the last week, it has been announced that Mitchell Berger has made it into Minnesota Music Educators Association’s All-State program. The All-State band consists of the best musicians all throughout Minnesota, and they are all brought together to improve these musicians.

This prestigious program is tough to get into, requiring an extremely tough audition piece and scales. So difficult in fact, that Mitchell is the first to make it into All-State in over 12 years! The previous person to make an alternate for All-State was Hope Grafstrom last year. We wish him luck on his performance!

The All-State process consists of two main parts. The first is the camp during the summer. The camp is a week-long camp that has many different activities to help improve the students as musicians. The camp is designed to help develop advanced skills for them as musicians and making music.

The second part is the actual rehearsal and performance. The rehearsal is February 17th, 2023, and the performance is held at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis on the 18th. We hope to see you there to support Mitchell Berger.


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