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The beat goes on: Bifocal Band keeps playing

It was impossible not to notice the St. Croix Central Bifocal Band at the homecoming game on Friday night.

The band belted out peppy tunes, like "Hogan's Heroes" and "Smoke on the Water" from their chairs on the track while the crowd filed in to the game.

For about half of the band members, playing before SCC games is a little bit of a deja vu as they are alumni.

The other half, although not alums of SCC, can remember back to their days of high school.

The Bifocal Band has been in existence for about six years, and, if the die-hards have anything to say about it, it will be around much longer.

An SCC need brought the band to life. A group of SCC Band alums all had kids fund raising for the annual sixth grade Washington D.C. trip. As a way to drive in some funds, and have fun while doing it, the group put on the first show, said Laurene Ray.

After the initial performance, other people wanted to join, Ray said.

Some people were recruited by their former bandmates to pick up their horns. Others were encouraged to try something new, like Cindy Chapin who switched from clarinet to bass drum.

Originally the band was limited to alumni but has expanded within the last few years to take in community members.

Interest has remained high, although Ray said they are encouraging more recent grads to get playing again and join them.

Barb Kaner, a community member of the band, said she played cornet from fifth grade through high school but stopped after graduation.

She said when her kids joined band at St. Croix Central, she really missed her old band days. Now she's a member of both the SCC Bifocal Band and the community band in Hudson.

Kaner said playing the music is different now than back in high school. "We're more mature now. We look at the music differently," she said.

Band members say they have a better understanding of dynamics and the structure of music but also literally see the music differently. The square four inch sheet the pep band music is printed on is a little too hard to read.

"We're all at 150 percent," said band member Pete Close, referencing the magnification of their full 8.5" by 11" music.

Others commented on a slowing of their arms and fingers along with their eyesight.

Practices help with some of the spiderwebs in their fingers. Just like in high school, Bifocal Band musicians put in their at-home practice time.

Full band practices only happen a few times before performances. Band members meet in the High School band room, unlocked courtesy of Dave Larson, High School Band director and fellow community band performer.

Not a lot of people always turn out to rehearse, and not all sections are always there.

Those present react to changes as necessary. On Wednesday during their run-through of Hogan's Heroes, six kazoos magically appeared to cover the flute and clarinet parts.

There is no set director. Before each rousing tune, band members discuss amongst each other the peculiarities of the pieces and the tempo they will take.

Musical terminology staccatos each discussion, countered by hums and hand symbols.

Minutes later the songs end and the band reconvenes their discussion about the piece, this time what should or should not change during their performance.

The Bifocal Band has expanded their gigs to include SCC football and basketball games and the alumni wrestling tournament. They have also been recruited for Roberts Good Neighbor Days and Hammond Heartland Days.

Through it all, one thing keeps them all coming back for more.

"We're all here for the same reason. We all like to play," Kaner said.

To join the SCC Bifocal Band, talk to anyone who currently participates or call Laurene Ray at 246-0762.