California Area School District welcomes new Band Teacher
California Area School District’s new K-12 band teacher, Jerianne Larson, has fit a lot of music into her 24 years – and she’s planning plenty more.
“The first instrument I played was the piano,” Larson recounted, “My parents forced me to take it in first grade, but I began to enjoy it.”
By fifth grade, she began playing clarinet in the band at school in her former hometown of Greenville, PA, then went on to provide piano accompaniment for the high school choir.
But it was while playing steel drums in high school, being exposed to different kinds of music, and traveling around the east coast for steel drum performances that she became truly excited about music.
However, the excitement didn’t end with high school graduation in 2009; Larson started at Westminster College as a double major in music and business. However, Larson said “That lasted about one week and I switched to Music Ed because I hated accounting.”
As most music majors might agree, subdividing measures is more interesting than calculating financial ratios on a balance sheet.
Larson’s change from a dual major to Music Education has not only benefitted her, but also the California Area School District, with Larson assuming the post of district-wide band teacher this year.
With her new position, expanded from her previous year’s post as K-8 General Music Instructor for the district, Larson has begun creating a new music scene for California Area High school in the form of a jazz ensemble, percussion ensemble, and middle and high school choirs, in addition to the regular marching band.
“Jazz is completely different from band music,” Larson said.
The Latin charts, ballads, and more modern styles of music will help stretch the students’ instrumental abilities and musical horizons.
The jazz ensemble meets one time per week, and “Kids enjoy that they have to sight-read on a different level,” Larson said.
Any steel drummer appreciates percussion, and Larson’s high school percussion ensemble carries her rhythmic ideas there.
The percussion ensemble, according to Larson, includes those who play drums and percussion, while those who play brass and woodwinds are also encouraged to play. “Anyone in band who can read music can join,” Larson said, continuing “Right now, there are five percussionists and seven woodwinds in the percussion ensemble.”
Middle school and high school choirs give voice to the new programs at California Area Schools. Middle school choir members are “trying harder things to improve as musicians,” Larson said, adding that the high school choir will be singing a cappella, singing in different languages, and will be doing a “wide variety of music so there’s something for everybody listening.”
Jazz ensemble, percussion ensemble, and choir concerts will be held at the high school auditorium, with middle school performances on December 15 at 7 p.m., and high school performances on December 16, 7 p.m.
Additionally, Larson is planning a middle school concert, with dates and times to be announced.
Larson’s musical skills and education haven’t stopped with her new role. She’s earning a Master’s in Wind Conducting at Messiah College in Mechanicsville, PA (near Harrisburg), while also performing with Westmoreland Symphonic Winds, a concert band in residence at Seton Hill University.
Summer time might be break time for many in the educational system, but not Larson, who takes kick-boxing, is a movie enthusiast, and works at J. Crew.
As she explains “I like to keep busy, even when I’m not working.”
A tall work-load like Larson’s could make one crazy, but Larson credits the district’s marching band staff who have “made sure I haven’t lost my mind this year.”
She gives kudos to Assistant Band Director Steve Ventura; Wind Instrument and Drill Design director Nate Wright; Drum Instructor Rob Berletich and Assistant Drum Line Instructor Pete Harris, and Guard Instructor Krista Wineland.
Larson’s advice for student musicians is simple: “Keep with it. There will be times it’s easy, other times when it’s hard, but if you push through it, it pays off.”
Her advice extends to parents as well, whom she advises to keep encouraging their young musicians, and keep helping them.
Most of all, Larson enjoys what she does, saying “It’s really great working with these kids and supportive parents who bring their kids. The parents here go the extra mile for their kids to do awesome things.”
Story by Keren Lee Dryer for Pennsylvania Bridges