Renee Carmichael, a member of Garden City Community College’s music faculty, marked her last concert at Garden City with this year’s Flower Concert. (GC3 Media)
I’m always thrilled to see a music piece I’m actually familiar with when I look at a concert program, something that I can latch onto that harkens back to another time.
In this case, at the Garden City Community College Spring Awards and Flower Concert, it was “Jupiter” From Gustav Holst’s “The Planets.” I remembered it being exciting, building up to expansive, grand moment, as if something bigger is coming. It was a fitting piece for a night dedicated to celebrating the bittersweet, yet necessary, fresh starts coming for many of the musicians on stage.
The Flower Concert is a tradition to recognize the music students who are graduating, taking their next steps. For Renee Carmichael, a member of the music faculty at GCCC, the concert meant broadening her own horizons. This was her last concert at Garden City before resettling closer to family in the Twin Cities over the summer.
So the faculty, students and community players all took this moment for themselves to acknowledge their growth and the outstanding leadership within the orchestra and band.
The orchestra program at Garden City has had a dicey road over the years. It wasn’t until the fall of 2020, amid the isolating pandemic, that Carmichael felt compelled to revitalize the dormant program, championing community through music. It could become a place where community members can come to continue honing their craft.
Carmichael approached Marc Malone, vice president for instructional services at GCCC, with her vision. By spring 2021, the program was reintroduced at that year’s Flower Concert.
Like embellishments from the percussionists, the smallest moments lit up the night. Conductors would honor students performing their inaugural, or perhaps their last, GCCC performance by having the students simply stand. Eli Ulrich, a freshman bass player, beat everyone to the punch, excitingly throwing his hands up, as if he had won the race to be recognized.
Like embellishments from the percussionists, the smallest moments lit up the night. Conductors would honor students performing their inaugural, or perhaps their last, GCCC performance by having the students simply stand.
– Brett Crandall
Before the evening’s last piece, music faculty members Sean Buller, CJ Johnson and Mackenzie Johnson sent Carmichael off with a care package, compete with snacks for the long road to Minnesota.
As they recounted Carmichael’s contributions, tears were shed, reminding the audience why music and arts are called “the humanities.”
I often glanced over at Malone during the concert as he sat next to me. I gently patted on my sap-of-a-fiance’s knee and handed him a tissue I knew would be necessary. It was glorious to witness young people acknowledging the value of keeping a post-graduation practice. It can bring such deep joy.
As the young musicians readied their bows and pressed their lips to mouthpieces, many were teary-eyed as they looked at Carmichael with gratitude, knowing exactly what to do with those larger-than-life feelings. As they played Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” the tempo picked up. Before we knew it, we were at the cannons (Buller assisting on bass drum), shaking us into the present moment.
We all have moments in which we have no choice but to grow. But we often struggle to find, or even allow ourselves, the space to truly develop, process, make mistakes, take risks, and evolve.
So, Godspeed to the Carmichaels and a Jupiter-sized “thank you” for your extraordinary efforts in keeping musicianship alive in western Kansas. Garden City is bigger because of you.
Brett Crandall is an actor, writer, producer, puppeteer and LGBTQIA+ activist based in Garden City. Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own commentary, here.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.