Northwestern High School musicians sound off online

In not-so-normal times, NHS students have found ways to share their work.
Freshman Mateo Stauffenecker wears a adapted mask as he plays his flute during band practice Monday, Oct. 26, at Northwestern High School. (Jed Carlson /

Northwestern High School band and choir students invite the community to tune in to a pair of open rehearsals Friday, Oct. 30.

The choir will sing at 11:15 a.m.; the band will play at 12:40 p.m. Both rehearsals will be broadcast live on the School District of Maple YouTube channel. They will also be available to view after the event.

“I have the best job in the world,” said NHS band director Michael Hintzman. “I get to hear and work with these students every day. I’m going to finally oblige and let you get to enjoy what I get to enjoy.”

It’s a fall concert, but not a concert, according to choir director Mike Goodlet.

“We’ve always felt a great sense of support with this community with the arts, and we want to share that back with them,” he said. “This is not normal, but we want to create some sort of normalcy. Around this time of the year, people start to look forward to football games, they start to look forward to fall concerts, and we want to accommodate that as best we can and show them that their kids are doing a great job under these circumstances. We’re proud of the work that they’re doing even in this not-so-normal time.”


The open rehearsal format puts less pressure on the students than a traditional concert, Goodlet said, but lets them share the work they’ve been doing with the community. It also gives more leeway if a number of students are identified as close contacts to a COVID-19 positive case and aren’t able to make it Friday.
Katie Kyle wears a special mask and has a covering on her baritone during band practice Monday, Oct. 26, at Northwestern High School. (Jed Carlson /

Viewers can expect the performance to look different.

The musicians will all be masked. Choir students wear masks reminiscent of a duck’s bill that allow extra breathing space and don’t muffle the sound as much. Band masks open in the middle for the mouthpiece to fit into; flute players use retooled singer’s masks. The bells of brass instruments are covered as an added safety precaution and students can’t sit right next to each other.

Each of these distractions takes a toll, Hintzman said, but students are working through them.

“It’s less of a challenge compared to last spring,” he said. “I think anything that we’ve run into this fall, it’s been pretty easy to say ‘It’s better than April.’”

While daily rehearsals take place in the band room and auditorium, Friday’s open rehearsals will take place in the upper gym, a throwback to decades ago when that was the traditional site for concerts. The space offers enough room for the students to maintain adequate social distance, even when they are joined by the roughly 30% of music students who have chosen full-time online schooling. Goodlet said 35 of his 130 choir students are fully online learners; of the 50 band students, up to 20 are fully online.

The end of a trumpet has a special covering on it to stop anything from coming out of it other than sound during band practice Monday, Oct. 26, at Northwestern High School. (Jed Carlson /

Some of the concert music may sound familiar. Hintzman is revisiting the pieces band students rehearsed this spring. Instead of imagining how it would sound or stitching together videos some students recorded at home, they can play it together. Only about 65% of NHS music students participated in those recorded spring concerts.

“Now they can all participate,” Goodlet said. “There is strength in being able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with someone and sing or sit closer and play ... It is another challenge but they’re rising to it and still creating some pretty good music.”

Everyone is invited to tune in to the performance.

"I always look at it as simply a way to share with everybody else the things that we’ve been doing and while the format and the feel of this may be different, that approach is the same," Hintzman said.
Gilbert Torvinen wears a special mask as he plays the french horn during band practice Monday, Oct. 26, at Northwestern High School. (Jed Carlson /


SHS orchestra

The Superior High School orchestra planned to open its first virtual concert up to students and parents at 6 p.m. Oct. 26 through Google Meet. Links to the concert videos will be posted on the SHS Orchestra Facebook page following the concert and will be viewable for one week.
Junior Jesse Larson wears a special mask as he plays his trumpet during band practice Monday, Oct. 26, at Northwestern High School. (Jed Carlson /

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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