Mead High School’s Unified Percussion Ensemble, or UPE, took the field for a unique half-time show last night, supported by professional funk band Guerilla Fanfare Brass Band, or GuFa.
GuFa led the half-time performance with a rendition of Dr. Dre’s “The Next Episode” before being joined by UPE to play “Happy” by Pharrel Williams. Closing out the night, UPE and GuFa were supported by the entire Mead Mavericks High School Marching Band, along with the Mead’s cheerleaders and dance team, for a brassy performance of the Rolling Stones “Paint it Black.”
UPE, started by Mead High School’s Director of Bands Chad Lemons three years ago, is part of St. Vrain Valley School Districts unified sports program. UPE gives students with special needs the chance to learn music and be a part of the band, partnered with band student mentors.
Dan Green’s son Josiah is one of the performers in UPE, with Green cheering his son on from the sidelines. Green said Josiah took quickly to UPE, learning how to keep the beat, and has seen his son’s performance improve tremendously.
“It’s really neat that the school started something like this, to include the kids and show that no matter what you like, you’ve got a lot to contribute,” Green said.
Mead’s students were also excited to help UPE take the field, cheering vigorously from the stands. Mead Maverick’s drumline section leader Mason McCollum said he hadn’t had the chance to take the class but was proud that his school had a program like UPE.
“It’s this really cool thing and I’m really glad we’re able to share with more people,” McCollum said.
Lemons’ staff shared in the enthusiasm. Leah Anderson, one of the special education professionals, worked with UPE since the beginning of the program. Anderson said she loves seeing how the students progress every year.
“The relationships the students build with the aids in the class are amazing, the trust and teaching, it’s pretty awesome,” Anderson said.
Mead’s new Assistant Director of Bands, Abby Koehler, was grateful for the sense of community that UPE builds in the school, she said, helping students develop friendships outside the classroom and promoting a healthy, supportive environment.
“This couldn’t happen without the amount of people supporting it, it’s a group effort,” Lemons said. “We’re fortunate to have so many people in the district and in the community embrace it.”