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Carols in the cafe: Downtown music event gives students a taste of performance

Solos, duets, trios and quartets gave high school band members an outlet for their talent, before a carol sing and a jazz band set Sunday in downtown Park Rapids.

The very musical Worner family – Kate on bass clarinet, Jack and Tami on clarinet, and Greg on French horn – start the holiday program Dec. 12, 2021 at Bella Caffé with "O Little Town of Bethlehem." Later, Greg switched to trumpet. Robin Fish / Park Rapids Enterprise
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Students of John Cook, band director at Century Middle School and Park Rapids Area High School, had an opportunity to experience public performance in solos and small ensembles Sunday, Dec. 12 at Bella Caffé.

A combined crowd of fellow music students, family members and coffee-house patrons lent an ear to duets, trios, quartets and more, mostly arrangements of Christmas carols and other holiday-themed pieces.

Jillian Neubauer and her teacher, Sarah Kaufenberg, play a piano duet arrangement of "Carol of the Bells" during the Christmas music recital Dec. 12, 2021 at Bella Caffé. Neubauer also performed a couple solo pieces. Robin Fish / Park Rapids Enterprise

Later in the program, school choir director Lucas Ford and a group of singers led the crowd in belting out several Christmas carols, before the high school jazz band wrapped things up in the cafe’s back room with a set blending holiday tunes and jazz standards.


Cook gave Julie Simmons with the Park Rapids PTA credit for organizing the event.

“It was our first time,” she said. “We’re trying a holiday music and books event.”

In addition to the kids’ musical performances, middle school kids experienced a “Nutcracker” book reading at a local bookstore.

Jarrett Galzki shows considerable talent on the piano during the exhibition of middle school and high school band members' musicianship Dec. 12, 2021 in downtown Park Rapids. Galzki's pieces included "Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel" and "Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy" from the Nutcracker. Robin Fish / Park Rapids Enterprise

“For us, it’s an opportunity for some of our more advanced musicians to have some other performance opportunities, get them out in front of the community,” said Cook. “Build some community-school connections. Get people downtown to shop in the Christmas season. And then, get kids out for books, storytime and hot cocoa. Just a fun, community event.”

Cook said any time the kids get to perform is good for them. “They get more confident and more prepared for the next time,” he said. “It’ll be good for them musically, and it’ll be good for their grade, too.”

“I’ve wanted to do an event like this for as long as I’ve been here,” he said, adding that the hard part is “getting off the dime to make it happen. So, I’m happy that Julie put this together.”


“We’re hoping this will be an annual tradition,” said Simmons.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at or 218-252-3053.
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