ESTHERVILLE, Iowa | Hope Rasmussen hops from jazz band to jazz choir to speech to mock trial to basketball this time of year.
Her position with the jazz band at Central Lyon High School is much the same. On Tuesday, at the Iowa Lakes Community College Jazz Contest, Rasmussen plays three instruments in a four-song set, going from flute to piano to congas, apparently "resting" only when the music advises.
At a small school, particularly, students don numerous hats. Judge Dan Stecker, a high school band teacher in Pleasantville, Iowa, tips his hat to the musicians at Central Lyon who play in their opening festival of the year, earning second place to South O'Brien among Class 1A schools. Harris-Lake Park takes third.
"How many of you have a basketball game tonight?" Stecker asks, prompting a few musicians to raise their hands, including Rasmussen, a 5-foot 9-inch post player who collects 12 points and 6 rebounds per game for the Lions.
"That's the way it is in a small school," Stecker says. "I know, because I have students in speech and choir and basketball."
Stecker recalls watching Central Lyon in recent years at both the girls' state basketball tournament and the state tournament for jazz bands, the prestigious Iowa Jazz Championships.
Rasmussen has participated in the state basketball tournament, two state track meets and three state volleyball competitions. However, she's not a veteran of the Iowa Jazz Championships, where Central Lyon placed sixth one year ago. She was a member of the Jazz II unit at Central Lyon, the understudy to the top jazz band. She played saxophone last year.
"My sister was the pianist in Jazz I," she says, mentioning that Angel Rasmussen, a 2015 Central Lyon grad, is now a student at South Dakota State University.
So, Hope Rasmussen sat in-waiting for her varsity jazz band opportunity? That's right.
"It made me work harder," she says.
That hard work takes her through a solo, carrying the band's second chart, "I Hope In Time A Change Will Come," by Oliver Nelson.
"She's a very good player," Sherwin Langholdt, director of bands at Central Lyon High School, says. "She's always been a flute player, but the flute is not typically a jazz band instrument, unless you solo with it."
Stecker stands with Langholdt, delivering his marks following the performance. He lauds the efforts and offers tips on how to improve in time for the Northwest Iowa District Jazz Festival on Feb. 15 at Le Mars Community High School. A berth in the Iowa Jazz Championships Class 1A field will be at stake that day.
"When you use vibrato, it's very good," Stecker says to Rasmussen, attempting to encourage more of the musical practice.
"And, all of you soloists, take what you've got and try to make it your own," Stecker adds. "You've got lots of solos, which I think is awesome."
I think it's awesome that a judge delivers constructive criticism like this, giving musicians advice they'll carry forward, and put into practice.
These Central Lyon musicians have less than one month to take Stecker's advice, as well as that offered by fellow judges Kevin Linder and Russ Nagel on this day, and make their songs sing even more.
By the time Feb. 15 arrives, Hope Rasmussen will likely have made "I Hope In Time..." even better. She will also have scored dozens of baskets, grabbed all sorts of rebounds and hopped into both speech and jazz choir seasons while keeping an eye on spring track, and her specialties there: discus and hurdles.
Apparently, there is no "rest" for a multi-talented performer. That's probably what she prefers.
As the interview wraps up, I ask Rasmussen to name her favorite activity at Central Lyon. She either won't, or can't.
The rebounding/high-jumping pianist-who-plays-flute simply smiles and says, "I like everything."