By Sterling McGinn
Band class has been a joyfully noisy event at Tahquamenon Area Schools, but nearly fell silent this year after the last minute resignation of the school’s music instructor.
Bands helps kids learn music and math and adds pep to sports games and parades. It makes Christmas concerts possible.
When Newberry suddenly found themselves without a band teacher, the district scrambled to make do, but the available options were slim.
When Naubinway resident Bob Bowser heard about the situation, he stepped in to keep the program running. He’ll stay until a permanent director is secured.
“It [the band program] would have been a struggle if Mr. Bowser hadn’t stepped in,” said TAS Superintendent Stacy Price. “We really wanted to have some consistency.”
Sara Perfetti, who had been with the school district for several years, submitted her letter of resignation to the board of education at their August meeting. Her resignation came as a surprise to the board members, who felt her departure would be a great loss to the students and community.
Perfetti accepted a band director position at another district just several weeks before the start of the 2022/2023 school year.
Bowser is not a stranger to the local band program. He began assisting former Newberry/Engadine band director Jeremiah Clark 12 years ago and has helped with the programs ever since.
“I help in Newberry, Manistique and Engadine,” he said. “My goal is to help the kids…my children were in band in Brighton, and when I retired in 2004, the director there knew I played in the University of Michigan Band. He wanted me to come help the beginners.”
Bowser and his wife, Joyce, wanted to live on lakefront property after retirement. The couple relocated to the Upper Peninsula and now live in the Naubinway area, where they have been active with local schools.
Bowser is instructing the 7-8 grade TAS programs along with the high school band.
The Newberry High School Band will perform at homecoming this week, he said, and at the last two home football games.
He also noted that the band will travel to Marquette for the Band Day event at Northern Michigan University. The annual band program is held in the Superior Dome, where bands from across the Upper Peninsula perform with the Wildcat Marching Band at halftime of a football game.
There will also be a Veteran’s Day program in the auditorium this year, and a Christmas concert. Pep band will perform at the Dig Pink volleyball game and at home basketball games this winter.
“The plan is to do everything the band normally does, “he said.
Although Bowser is working every day at the school to keep the band program up and running, he gives the students and staff the credit for the work and progress.
“I want to thank Stacy Price and her staff and all the students at TAS—there hasn’t been anyone who hasn’t helped me help the kids,” he said.
Michael Magyar is the official sub for the class, and Bowser said he is doing so many wonderful things for the program.
Band students are helping fellow section members with fingerings and rhythms. Sophomore Sophia Johnson, who plays a number of musical instruments, has been helping students in the middle school band.
Band teachers Nicole Gustafson, Sara Perfetti, Jeremiah Clark, and Jeremy Connin have been invaluable sources for Bowser and the students during this transition period.
“The band directors are one big community…they have never said they don’t have time to help,” Bowser stated.
James Roach, a friend of Bowser’s from U. of M., helped acquire music for baritone sax and bass clarinet parts for the Newberry students.
The TAS Band program will also be receiving some uniforms from Total Image Group.
“We are supposed to be getting the uniforms when we go to Band Day,” he said. “We will need people who can embroider the letter N on the jackets.”
The success of program so far has been a community effort.
“We are getting help from Rudyard, Engadine, Manistique and Newberry,” Bowser explained. “And it’s to help the kids.”