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Draper Journal

Summit Academy music director credits students as he takes final bow

Jul 22, 2021 11:19AM ● By Julie Slama

Summit Academy band, choir, orchestra and guitar students celebrate their Music in the Parks festival awards at Lagoon. (Photo courtesy of Alan Larson/Summit Academy)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

If an encore was needed, perhaps it should have been on May 8 when Summit Academy took first place in its division with its orchestra, choir and guitar performances at the Music in the Parks festival. Along with its second-place band finish, the music program was awarded the Esprit de Corps award—for the fourth-straight year (skipping last year since the festival wasn’t held because of the COVID-19 pandemic).

It was the final competition for Alan Larson as Summit Academy’s eight-year director as he plans to teach middle school in Lehi this fall.

However, Larson credits Summit non-auditioned seventh- and eighth-grade student groups for their abilities, scoring “excellent” with their May 8 ratings. The instrumental festival was performed at Viewmont High while the choir was judged at Layton High. The Esprit de Corps award was presented to one school, which Larson said represents “decorum and sportsmanship.”

“That is really based off of how the students behaved throughout, how they interact with other students, how they interact with the host; also, you know like if anything happens, just how resilient they are,” he said. “So just in general, for me, it’s actually the award that I always aim for with all my students because it just means that they’re good human beings and they’re really trying to be respectful of other people.”

It was a little different from their first win when Larson said in 2017: “When they announced it, the kids were screaming. It was like the entire table exploded and started dancing and yelling. We just went crazy.”

This time, instead of an awards ceremony at Lagoon, Larson told the groups himself. While there was no public announcement or gathering this year to reduce the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus, the students still were pleased.

“It was a weird year for us; they had the directors come and get the trophies and then, I did a little mini-award ceremony on the bus as we went home,” he said. “They were pumped; they’re always super excited.” 

Also different was the number of musical groups from neighboring states. Previously, besides the Mountain West, there have been teams from the Pacific Northwest. This year, Larson knew of only three Idaho schools competing and the stage was disinfected between groups. Even interactions were restricted with other schools.

“Normally, one of the most rewarding parts of coming to one of these festivals is that you get to stay and listen to other groups and hear what else is happening outside your school. This year, they only allowed members of the school that were performing to be in the auditorium at the time. That was a bummer,” he said.

Larson said that he felt their rankings and comments were fair.

“I told my students that some days when they were performing for me in class, they were at that excellent mark and some days they were in that superior range. Going back and listening to the recordings versus being there in the moment, you hear things, and you can be a little more critical of what you hear. For me, and these students, where they started this year and what they showed me the end of the year, was definitively—especially choir and orchestra—a superior level in my eyes. I thought they just did really well—an incredible effort on their part,” he said. 

Before Larson left, he shared the feedback with his students—in amongst the year-end concert and final testing.

“We’re just listening to him (judge), discussing it, talking about the future, what kinds of things could we do to improve or prevent things that we heard and what things did they say that were good that we can keep working on and make sure that we keep those habits,” he said. “This year (because of not having a rehearsal before their spring concert), it was more of a discussion, other years we take those comments and apply it to our final concert.”

While Larson sits this year’s five trophies on the shelf with others in the music room, the four-time Esprit de Corps trophy director leaves the program of about 40 students in the hands of the newly hired director, Alhana Loose.

“It’s a bittersweet thing,” he said. “Choir is really my thing and I’ve always wanted to just teach choir. So, I’d be teaching only choir there at a larger middle school, which means bigger numbers and bigger pools of kids for choir. In every single way, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do, but at the same time, Summit is just an awesome place. We have amazing kids, and we have an amazing stuff. I will really miss being here for sure.”