Roosevelt Middle School has long held a strong tradition of premier Jazz performers. As one of Nebraska’s most critically-lauded Jazz programs, Roosevelt has received media attention recently for their strange adaptation of musical numbers from the Off-Broadway musical revue “Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk.”
Band directors were quoted as saying they made the uncharacteristic choice to adapt the musical, which chronicles African American historical events – including slavery and the civil rights movement – for a predominantly Caucasian youth ensemble because “our group of young boys and girls are more than equipped with the tools to channel the sound required to tell this moving musical journey.”
Head director of bands at Roosevelt, Keith Wertz, commented on the controversy in the November PTA newsletter.
“We saw this as an opportunity to flex our musical chops. Our kids almost always make All-State and play in countless other ensembles, so I think we’ve earned the right to be a little edgy. ‘[Bring in] ‘da Noise, [Bring in] ‘da Funk’ was one of my favorite African American performances of the late nineties, and I’m more than confident that our junior high school band has the soul and fortitude to detail the struggles of the Negro community.”
Kevin Lyons, the band’s drummer and sole African American member, says the the musical, while somewhat awkward to perform, is one that provides Roosevelt citizens with a chance to experience another culture.
“The folk in this town aren’t exactly the most diverse. My family is one of three black families in Roosevelt. My friends always ask me questions about hip hop and all that. I have a bad feeling about the show, but it can’t exactly get any worse. I’m tired of people asking me if my uncle is Dwayne Wade or Scotty Pippen. I don’t even know who those people are.”