Imagine a high school buzzing with melodies. Harmonies of voices, percussion, brass and strings lead to an entire wing dedicated to the musical arts.
The music program is growing and changing within the walls of East Lansing High School. Parent and East Lansing school board member Karen Hoene said while the school has great facilities, it is the directors that make the music program phenomenal.
“Our band director, orchestra director and our choir director are all amazing – over the top. In fact, David Larzelere has, like, tripled the band in size,” Hoene said. “We had a very small marching band, and now, every year, it’s bigger.”
Larzelere draws students in with his teaching style. Alto saxophonist Abbie Draheim, who has been in the band program for five years, said Larzelere makes learning music fun. She also said that he personalizes his teaching based on each student’s needs, but keeps his expectations high to challenge the band with the music he picks.
Band member Olivia Van Dyke said Larzelere creates an atmosphere that makes a great learning environment. Van Dyke also said the program is very selective. There are three bands, all based on auditions: concert band, symphonic band and wind ensemble.
ELHS’s band is not the only program growing in numbers. According to orchestra Director David Rosin, the program has doubled during the 10 years he has been teaching, growing from 58 students to more than 100 participating.
Rosin said the difference between ELHS’s music program and those of schools in surrounding communities is the fact that ELHS has strings. He said other high schools are considered band schools, but don’t offer the range of options ELHS does.
“There is currently one girl in our program that goes to school in Bath but comes to East Lansing for half of the day to be in orchestra,” Rosin said.
All the directors teach classes from sixth grade through 12th grade. This lets them nurture talent from very beginning, introductory levels.
Choir Director Eric Cadena is a new addition to the program. He started at ELHS in September 2017. After talking with parents, administrators and students, Cadena is already changing and improving the ELHS choirs’s curricula He said students are willing to take a chance on him.
“I’m just thinking long term about what kinds of skills I could build into the program,” Cadena said. “I’ll see next year what exactly happens.”