CLHS band creates iconic documentary moment

Public urged to join in the fun Friday night

by Marianne Gasaway

Clear Lake’s commitment to preserving its musical history has caught the attention of crews filming a documentary  on the song “American Pie,” by Don McLean. 

Clear Lake High School Band Director Holly Prier said she was aware that this is the 50th anniversary of the 1971 hit song about the loss of early rock and roll and she wanted to make it the theme for her marching band this fall.  

“There is all this music with so much relevance to Clear Lake,” explained Prier.  “I wanted to do something special using American Pie, along with music from Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson).”

The only problem was, band arrangements for the music didn’t exist.  

Prier shared her idea with a teacher she studied under at Iowa State University, who gave her a contact for a person who could possibly arrange the music. Once Tom Clary, from Nashville, Tenn., agreed to make the arrangement,  she shared the idea even further.  

Friend Kathy Lloyd, from Clear Lake, suggested she contact Don McLean’s manager to see if they might be interested in the fact that a high school band in Iowa was celebrating his music.  McLean’s team shared the news nugget with a crew filming a documentary about the song which made the singer legendary and they not only found it interesting, but wanted to include it in their project.  

The crew plans to be in Clear Lake Friday night as the band performs its medley of “American Pie,” Holly’s “Every Day” and “LaBamba,” made famous by Valens.  In addition, they plan to visit Clear Creek Elementary School and talk with students who know as much about music from 1959 as any teenie bopper at the time.

“When I came to Clear Lake I remember being surprised the kids knew so much about early rock and roll history,” said Prier.  “It was impressive.  I believe it was (former Clear Lake music teacher) Harold Arians who started getting kids enthused about the Winter Dance Party at the Surf Ballroom and would hold a third grade concert at the Surf each year.  It has grown and grown.”

The Clear Lake community is encouraged to come out to Lions Field Friday night, Oct.1, and not only cheer on the football team in their final home game of the season, but take part in the halftime musical fun.  In addition to the band’s performance, everyone in the stands will be invited to participate in a stadium sing-a-long of the American Pie chorus. The entire band will be wearing Winter Dance Party inspired T-shirts, designed by Clear Lake business Brin & Lew.

Prier said she believes that this will be the first time the CLHS Marching Band has performed the rock and roll hits, although LaBamba has been in the pep band repertoire on occasion.  One of the benefits of having the music specially arranged was the ability to highlight special strengths of the band, she said.  CLHS horn player Kjersten Ouverson will be featured in the American Pie segment of the medley and Kristina Miller will be highlighted on the marimba during LaBamba. 

“We are so excited to be doing this and we really want everyone to come and take part,” added Prier.  

Who knows?  As McLean’s famous song said, the marching band may refuse to yield after their halftime segment.

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