As the school year draws to a close, the Wind Ensemble and Chamber Orchestra seek to honor and recognize their seniors.
“We formed a bond with the seniors,” said sophomore Will Schramm. “During band, we got to know seniors whom we usually wouldn’t get the chance to know, and they are all cool, unique people.”
Each performance over the past year has been a unique lesson in band and orchestra development.
“There are always surprises in live performances, both good and bad, and all of them are learning experiences,” said director of instrumental music, Scott Stewart. “The best takeaway from all the performances is that we always get better after each one. The performances propel us forward to the next level, and there is a sense of growth and raising the bar, as the standards grow with each concert.”
Looking back at their concerts this year, the students themselves also feel that their hard work has paid off.
“We always [got] kind of nervous before concerts,” said senior Faith Cho, a clarinet player in the band, “but definitely [pulled] it off in the end.”
Repertoire this year has included traditional pieces, but the musicians have also selected different works themselves.
“We played our traditional staples and added in some stuff [this year],” said senior band member Cage Reeder, a band member. “It was fun playing How to Train Your Dragon with the orchestra, and it sounded really good, too.”
Because this year’s concerts integrated many different instruments, the experience proved to be gratifying for the musicians.
“There is a lot of energy in the concerts,” said Cho. “When you’re actually playing music, it’s a great feeling of being united in song.”
Some of the students have specific concerts that they enjoyed the most.
“I loved the Christmas concert,” said Reeder. “It was awesome.”
This year’s concerts were also rewarding for the conductors because they exhibited the students’ talent and hard work.
“Concerts for us are a culmination of academic units; the way that other classes have exams or projects or papers, concerts are our public assessment,” said Stewart. “It is the art of teaching, with a curricular and education objective behind what we are doing, but it is also a production because we are in the entertainment business.”
Each musical piece has been meticulously put together.
“It is always very methodical and planned,” said Stewart. “It has to do with the skills and knowledge that we want our students to have, and we think about variety, length, style, volume, key, and every other different facet of music that makes it interesting for listeners.”
Over the past year, the band and orchestra have created an environment to nurture student exploration of music.
“I fell in love with music, even though I’m not a musical master by any stretch of the imagination,” said Reeder. “I have very little musical talent but I love it and listening to it, and the band has been great for me.”
Both the orchestra and band honor their seniors as they prepare for graduation. The Chamber Orchestra has an in-class ceremony where the juniors present individualized gifts to the seniors, and accompany the gifts with a short speech about the graduating orchestra member.
“In both cases, we recognize that four years of participation at any level at Westminster is a major commitment that represents a lot of dedication and sacrifice and hard work,” said Stewart.
Similarly, the band dedicates their final concert to the seniors. The seniors are then presented with recognition plaques and given superlatives by the conductors.
“We get to pick the music and we play a couple songs,” said Reeder. “We have a great time, since band has meant a lot to us. This is our last hurrah, and we want it to be as good as possible.”
For the percussion section of the band, the departure of the seniors represents forthcoming change.
“It’s hard especially for us, because half of the percussionists are seniors, so there will be a lot of freshmen having to step up next year,” said Schramm, who plays in the percussion section. “I am also just going to miss the seniors’ leadership, because they have always been there to guide us.”
The seniors, too, will miss the band and orchestra.
“When you’ve put so much time into something, it’s bittersweet to see it go,” said Reeder. “A lot of us won’t get to play in college, or won’t choose to, so it’s sad for it to end.”
Relationships between the band members, fostered over several years will not be easily forgotten.
“I’ll miss the people the most, because they are all great people to work with,” said Cho. “My clarinet section is like a little family, and getting to know everyone in band has been awesome.”
The students and directors together have created a uniting and exceptional experience that they will miss after graduation.
“They are lively, curious, hardworking, and ambitious students,” said Stewart. “It is important to recognize the leadership of the seniors while they are on their way out.”