The Spring Lake Park High School bands will perform a hip-hop concert at the school’s annual October showcase.
Over 220 students in Symphonic Orchestra, Varsity Band, Jazz Ensemble and Wind Ensemble will perform in a concert at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 7, in the Spring Lake Park High Fine Arts Center at 1100 81st Ave. NE, Spring Lake Park. Another performance for children will be the Young People’s Concert at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8, at the Fine Arts Center. The Young People’s Concert will have a hip-hop dance demonstration for children prior to the show.
A private showing for all Spring Lake Park middle school students will be Monday, Oct. 7.
Each year the October showcase has a theme; last year’s was Disney. Earlier this year, students approached band teachers Brian Lukkasson and Nora Tycast about hip-hop being the theme.
The idea excited Lukkasson and Tycast and worked to make the hip-hop concert possible.
“For this year’s showcase students have been asking to play something with hip-hop, and that just doesn’t really exist for concert band because you can’t buy the music,” Lukkasson said. “It really just hasn’t been an option for us. These students have not had the music they listen to recognized or represented as an art form anywhere, particularly in band so we worked at getting someone to arrange and write it for us.”
Lukkasson approached his former student Joshua Holmgren, who graduated Spring Lake Park High School in 2006, for help. Holmgren currently works as a music producer in Minneapolis.
“When I was approached about doing this I thought it was so cool because I’ve never seen something like this before,” Holmgren said. “In that respect this is something very new and there’s not a lot to go off of in terms of what other people have done so there has been a lot of creative license to build.”
Holmgren wrote and arranged the entire concert that includes the hip-hop songs “1-800-273-8255” by Logic, “Tightrope” by Janelle Monae, “Umbrella” by Rihanna, “Motownphilly” by Boyz II Men, “All We Got” by Chance the Rapper and Kanye West, “Don’t Sweat the Technique” by Eric B. and Rakim, “Move on Up” by Curtis Mayfield, “Touch the Sky” by Kanye West and “Crazy in Love” by Beyoncé Knowles and Jay-Z.
“Hip-hop is an important art form along with everything else,” Holmgren said. “It’s important for this space where we’re learning and educating to be representative of all cultural groups. Music is often very underrepresented in terms of cultural representation, so adding this opportunity makes this all the more important. Hopefully it will set the bar for continued involvement in this space in music and beyond.”
The band students are also working with local hip-hop artists who will perform at the concerts. The artists include Holmgren, Ashley Dubose and Cameron Kinghorn.
“People should come check out our show because we’re working with professionals who are arranging it,” said senior Gray Daniels. “We have real producers, dancers and musicians. I’ve never heard of any high school band doing something like this.”
On Sept. 25, band students received a crash course in hip-hop dance from Laura Osterhaus with the Slo Dance Company in Minneapolis. She’ll be performing on stage during the concert with other Twin Cities dancers including Emilia Bruno and Desaré Cox.
“I’ve never performed on stage before with a huge band so that will be exciting,” Osterhaus said. “I really like this sort of opportunity to teach and be with the students before the performance. As a dancer I find that these one time encounters can be more inspiring than a full-time teacher ... and I’ve gotten a lot out of that. I feel it creates the most magical opportunities for things to click with students especially at this stage of learning and development.”
Lukkasson said it was important to add dance to the curriculum so students can learn all aspects of hip-hop. “Dance has been such an intricate part of hip-hop so we wanted students to learn all aspects of the art form,” he said.
Senior Brooklyn Stubblefield, who is on the high school’s Dance Team, said she had loved the opportunity to combine both of her interests, dance and band. “I think it’s cool to apply what you learn in Dance Team here, because they never really mix and it’s so cool to do something so modern,” she said.
Lukkasson said the hip-hop concerts were made possible by a $6,500 grant that was given by the Panther Foundation. The goal of the grant was to bring in hip-hop to provide more musical representation to Spring Lake Park School District students.
“By playing hip-hop music in the band world we’re elevating hip-hop music and we’re making it equal to everything else,” he said. “This concert is so important because hip-hop music is so overlooked. This art form has been marginalized and put into the fringes saying it’s not as important as opera or classical music. We’re bridging the gap by connecting band with the music our students are listening to.”
“There is a conversation in musical education that talks about what’s in the canon and what’s not,” Tycast added. “What’s in the canon has come from western and European music traditionally and we’re leaving out a big chunk of American music such as hip-hop. Students need to know that hip-hop is also a powerful art form, and if we don’t bring it into our classroom kids are going to think that it’s not worthy of the same quality of respect, and we want to make sure it hold its own place.”
All of the concerts are free to attend, but donations are requested.