Bits ‘n’ Pieces: Skyview students to play with Navy Band



Vancouver Christian High School alum Kendra Chritz, center, was featured this month as National Geographic's Explorer of the Week.

When Steven Robertson started teaching, he was 21 and often mistaken for a student. Now 62, Skyview High School’s band director is looking forward to seeing his top students perform alongside professionals when the U.S. Navy Band comes to Vancouver during its national tour.

“The band students are really excited about it,” Robertson said. “That 10 of our students get to play next to such high-quality musicians, it’s great.” Those select members of the Skyview Wind Ensemble will join the Navy Band to perform John Philip Sousa’s “Washington Post March,” a tune instantly recognizable to many.

“No one’s too nervous,” Robertson said about the upcoming performance with the Navy. “We have enough pride in our own organization that the students will be really well-prepared.”

The Navy Concert Band is directed by Capt. Brian O. Walden and has performed at 21 presidential inaugurations, along with state functions, educational programs and military events.

“The next morning (the Navy musicians) are going to stick around to do some masters classes and clinics with the band students for an hour or two,” Robertson said. “We try to bring in adult performers.”

There’s a mature sound quality that Roberston strives to develop in his students. But the chance to see such high-caliber musicians play concert music is something special for Robertson, too.

“I’m from a band director family. My father was the band director of Beaverton (Ore.) High School when it first opened,” said Robertson, who has 40 years of music education experience. “I attended a lot of band concerts. It was one of the things I’ve always enjoyed and I’m just naturally drawn to it.”

The U.S. Navy Band will perform a free concert at 8 p.m. Feb. 14 at Skyview High School, 1300 N.W. 139th St. Tickets are required, and can be received by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to Skyview High School — Band Director, Navy Band Concert, 1300 N.W. 139th St., Vancouver, WA. 98685. Unclaimed seats will be available at the door.

— Ashley Swanson

National Geographic gives nod to Vancouver ‘Explorer’

Kendra Chritz was weaned on the globetrotting adventures in National Geographic magazine. Now the Vancouver Christian High School alum is the one

being highlighted by the publication.

Chritz, pursuing a Ph.D at the University of Utah, was picked by the magazine as its “Explorer of the Week” Jan. 3. In an interview on the Explorers Journal blog, viewable at National Geographic Explorer, Chritz spoke about the thrilling adventures, and dangerous close calls, she’s encountered while studying fossils across the world.

The Washougal native and 2009 University of Portland graduate is a recipient of National Geographic’s Young Explorer Grant, which provides money to people younger than 26 to assist their field research.

“Being a grantee in their organization is a wonderful realization of a childhood dream,” Chritz wrote in an email. She hopes to one day become a full-fledged Explorer-in-Residence for the magazine.

Chritz was also the recipient of a National Science Foundation fellowship, which helps pay for her doctoral studies in biology. After she gets her degree in a few years, Chritz said she hopes to eventually become a principal investigator at her own university lab.

She’ll make a return trip to East Africa to sample fossil teeth for chemical analysis later this year.

“I would like to teach and continue doing research for the rest of my life,” she said.

— Stover E. Harger III

Bits ‘n’ Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you’d like to share, email