Harwood Assembly Band plays season opener at Camp Meade in Middlesex, VT. Photo: Jeff Knight

By Claire Pomer, Harwood Union correspondent

On June 1, the Harwood Assembly Band will be performing with Sound Check at Higher Ground. The concert, which will be held in the Showcase Lounge, will benefit the Harwood Travel Study Program, which “supports cultural immersion, future cultural immersions, youth arts, and Harwood’s music department.”





This is the first year that Assembly Band has had an entire class period dedicated to it -- in previous years, it was just like a club, where they met outside of class time. The band plays a variety of genres, ranging from blues to pop – “Bluesy, groovy, funky, 60s/70s/80s,” as bassist Michelle Shenk put it. Each song is upbeat and meant to get audiences dancing.

“This is a very enriching experience, and it’s a fantastic opportunity that most music programs don’t offer,” said fellow bassist Sawyer Popowicz. For some band members, it’s even part of Harwood’s appeal. 

All of the band members are grateful for the opportunity to perform in such a large venue. “It’s really cool to be able to perform at the same place where I’ve seen big artists perform,” vocalist Indigo Leese said. “I was there last week for a concert and I’m performing in the room over.”

Performing at such a well-known venue requires a lot of responsibility. “Any time that students go out into the community to exhibit and share their work, it’s messaging who they are,” said music teacher Brian Boyes. “We must be at a professional or near professional level to do that.”

Guitarist Josh McHugh, a senior who has been with the band since his freshman year, agreed. “I’m super excited to play at Higher Ground,” he said. “It’s one of the bigger music venues in Vermont, and if we’re able to play there as high schoolers, it’s an honor.”

It’s also important for the band members to showcase the importance of music programs in high schools. The recent budget cuts around the state have targeted many music programs, and the band members know that they have to prove themselves with their concerts. “It’s helping show that schools can have good music programs,” vocalist Aiden Heath said. Ellie Buckingham, another vocalist, added, “It’s really important to show that music in schools is really important and that keeping it is really important.” Leese agreed, saying, “We’re also expanding that beyond the typical classical and choral vision -- orchestras and choruses are typical all over, but it’s also important to show skill sets across genres.”




The social justice band Sound Check, the opener at the concert, also has roots to Harwood: Boyes is the band leader and two vocalists, Annie McMillion and Zoe Blackman, are members. The band is made of Central Vermont high schoolers who write original music about social justice topics that they’re passionate about, such as climate change and gender inequality. The band was founded in 2016 through a Rowland Foundation Grant, which aims to “positively change the culture and climate of Vermont schools.” As Boyes put it, they’re honoring the diversity grant. All songs are written collaboratively by band members. “It’s really fun because it’s a legacy band,” Blackman said. “There are people that went to Harwood six years ago that were in this band and we're singing their music.” 

The show, on June 1 in the Showcase Lounge, will open at 7 p.m. and will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 the night of. “This is not a sitting thing,” said vocalist Solveig George. “We want dancing!”