Photos courtesy Myst L. Beal, Pacific Middle School
The Pacific Middle School Wind Ensemble in Des Moines took gold in San Francisco in the WorldStrides Heritage Performance program over Memorial Day weekend. They got to sightsee, too. Pictured above is their band director, Jeffrey Steen, whose band has won 6 of the last 7 competitions.

Pacific Middle School Wind Ensemble takes gold in San Francisco

Des Moines band has won six of last seven annual competitions

The Pacific Middle School Wind Ensemble, 7th & 8th graders, flew into San Francisco and enjoyed a four-day Memorial Day weekend where they competed, and won, in their division in the WorldStrides Heritage Performance program. The competition took place at Foothills College, the venue of the Heritage festival. Band Director Jeffrey Steen's 37-member ensemble played a Chorale by Bach, a short march, “El Capitan” and the “Jackson Lake Overture” by Spokane-area composer and teacher, the late Mark Williams.

Steen's bands have won six of the last seven annual competitions. One other Seattle-area band competed, Lake Washington High School from Kirkland, but in a different division.

"On the first day of our trip we had some fun," said Steen, 41, who was born in Sydney Australia and raised in Anchorage. "We looked around on the pier. There were boat museums, all kinds of cool things for the kids to see. We went to Alcatraz. It's a national wildlife preserve so we saw a lot of amazing birds nesting out there. But also it was very educational for the students to go through the history including the penitentiary, the Indian occupation, and (after) the Civil War."

The next day they had an hour and a half clinic with Steen's friend and mentor, University of California at Berkeley Director of Bands, Robert Calonico.

"I worked with Bob for almost 10 years," said Steen. "He has a great connection with the kids. He directs all the marching bands. We got the chance to practice in his giant rehearsal room with tubas everywhere, all kinds of marching equipment. It was cool for the kids to be there and to have a college experience.
He also helped me with conducting patterns. He's a person I look up to.

"The competition was kind of like American Idol with three judges who give comments, and then one judge came up and worked with the group and make suggestions for 15 minutes."

While Steen is accustomed to coming in first, he explained that his band took second place last year, beat out by a school with five musical directors present. That was at Disneyland. The band alternates between San Francisco and Anneheim each year. Students fundraise all year long. They sell Christmas trees, hold car washes, and work concession stands at Mariners games.

"I am very proud of this group," said Steen. "They really came together and there was some really good, hard work that went on this year. The trip was fantastic. They were such good travelers. I was so impressed with their young adult behavior. Everywhere we went they were on time. It was really nice and smooth, and the chaperones were wonderful, too.

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