MARSHALL - This year's Marshall School's Beats program is under new direction, but the focus is still on the student performers.
"There was some question about Beats continuing," said Dan Smith, who has served as Beats' technical director for the past nine years.
Chad Przymus, former Marshall High School band director, started Beats in 2005 and had directed the show for the past eight years before he took another teaching job in California. Now the reins have been passed to 2001 Marshall High graduate Eric Novosad.
Photo by Anna Haecherl-Smith
Eric Novosad, Marshall High School alumni, SMSU grad, has taken over as the director of the Beats program.
"Chad (Przymus) set up an amazing program in the last 10 years," said Novosad, "and I want to continue that tradition."
"Beating to our Drum" will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Schwan Community Center for the Performing Arts at Marshall High School. Tickets are $8 at the door.
Novosad participated in marching band and drum line in high school, even being a student of Przymus' for his senior year and later taking drum lessons from him. He graduated from SMSU in 2006 with a bachelor of arts degree in music education. Novosad has a long history of drumming.
"I started when I was 3 years old," Novosad said. "I'm a drum junkie."
Before taking the position of head percussion instructor, Novosad taught private lessons for more than 10 years, assisted with the marching band the past three years and advised small percussion ensembles that were practicing for previous Beats performances.
"It was kind of a shocker when Chad left," Novosad said. "What do we do with this great program? A lot of drumming parents came to me after marching band to talk about Beats... they didn't want the program to go away."
Last year's show featured taiko drumming and guest artists Wadaiko Tokara from Japan. In previous years, themes have included jungle beats, street drumming and using everyday objects as instruments. This year's theme is "Beating Our Own Drum."
"In a lot of the pieces we are doing, kids own up to their instruments," Novosad said. "It will showcase every drummer. There is not a part that is unimportant."
Students in grades 6 through 12 from Marshall High School, Marshall Middle School, Holy Redeemer and Marshall Area Christian School make up roughly 70 students participating in the program.
"We're able to use all the schools in Marshall to make this a community event," Novosad said.
Beats aims to be not just musically stimulating but also visually entertaining.
Alongside all of the logistics for the music, there is also a visual element that lets theater tech students try their hand at different lighting scenarios.
"We have a lot of different colors and are also throwing in intelligent lights that are controlled by a computer," said Annabelle Chamberlain, the stage manager for Beats. "We are responsible for setting the lights and the stage and working on rough light cues."
Sam Kontz is the light board operator and likes the new challenge.
"It's more like lighting a rock concert than a play or a choir concert," Kontz said.
There are also some sound and effects considerations with the tech crew.
"The mallets are mic'd," said Smith, "and there are fog machines."
"Dan (Smith) has been amazing," Novosad said. "I've leaned on him for show details and advice."
Beyond serving as head percussion instructor, Novosad also works full time for Sears as the local store manager and plays drums with local cover band Roxbury on the weekends.
"My wife is so awesome," Novosad said. "She supports everything I do musically."
Novosad also promises this year's finale will be one not to miss.
"I arranged a piece by Imagine Dragons that will incorporate every drummer in the show," Novosad said. "Something that would be a lot of fun for the kids. A bass player and guitar player will be coming in to help out."
"I love the community; being able to do this is really rewarding," Novosad said. "This is going to be an amazing performance by students who have worked their tails off."