West junior high school celebrates 50th anniversary

Daphne Yu

One of the many cakes served during the reception of the finale concert. Photo by Daphne Yu.
The splendid 50 degree weather on March 10 foreshadowed the delightful finale of the West Junior High School 50th Anniversary concert. Put on by than 150 music students, the program featured several alumni special guests, including past directors of the ensembles performing.
When he began teaching music at West in 1962, then band and orchestra director Phil Wood did not even have a classroom. Instead, he watched workers build the future band room from the foundation up.
“West was very small when it first started out,” Wood said, “we had a before-school Viking Band, a seventh grade band, an eighth grade band and I also taught string, but it was very small.”
The tiny ensembles had a yearly budget of $75 and only twelve stands. They practiced in the cafeteria but remained undeterred. Now band is one of the largest class offered at West, and friendships formed in music ensembles throughout the years, junior Grant Flakne, WJHS graduate said.
As a special part of their program, the choir and orchestra conductors asked former West music students to perform once again as Vikings.
The experience was “astounding,” Flakne said. Coming back and singing in such a familiar setting “made me think of all the good times.”
Similarly, this chance of once again conducting a Viking ensemble was a moving experience for Wood, who now teaches at Lincoln University in Jefferson City.
“It was like going back to my ‘Roots.’ If you’ve ever read that book, it was exactly like that,” Wood said. “That’s what I love doing – music and kids and probably in that reverse order: kids and then music.”
Funding for the 50th anniversary events began more than a year ago. It provided for an alumni tailgate at the last football game in the fall and an alumni showing at the last basketball game this semester.
For the concert series, “our parent group has been phenomenal in helping and supporting Mr. Sweeney, Mr. Melton and Mrs. Lawless to organize this event,” WJHS principal Sandra Logan said. “I was in tears listening to this last piece.”
As former students and staff return to the building to enjoy a collection of songs that represent the hard work and trials of time, the event brings to light the many memories they have of relationships they have established and kept throughout the years, including the bonds with the building itself.
“It’s extra special for me,” Logan said, “because West junior high turns 50 this year and so do I.”
By Daphne Yu