Westminster bands prepare for fall concert


Every year, the cooler October nights bring with them the annual Westminster Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble concert. This year, after a year of recorded concerts, Westminster’s symphonic band and wind ensemble will share their music live with an audience on Tuesday, Oct. 5.

Not only is the community looking forward to the return of live performances, students and staff at Westminster are as well. 

“We are very excited to return to live audiences and a less restricted playing environment, though we are still prioritizing safety as our number one this fall,” said Upper School band director Scott Stewart. 

Part of the Westminster band students’ excitement also stems from the less restrictive COVID-19 protocols. 

“We, fortunately, don’t have to play outside anymore, which is a lifesaver when it starts getting around to the colder months,” said Brandon Yao, a junior bassoonist for the wind ensemble. “However, we still have to wear special masks and distance when playing.”

         Other than changes in protocols, in recent years the Westminster band program has made significant efforts to include music by underrepresented composers. 

“This year we feel it is especially important to continue the trend that we started a few years back, which is to align with the school’s diversity, equity, inclusion initiative,” said Stewart. In addition to standard wind band repertoire, the upcoming concert will feature music by female composers and minorities, voices that are often unheard or ignored in the world of musical composition. “We are trying to diversify that repertoire and make sure that in every concert, we are intentionally finding quality music by underrepresented voices,” said Stewart.

Most classical wind ensembles across the United States play pieces largely by the same set of composers, such as Handel and Elgar.

“In classical music study, we typically study and perform music composed generally between the years 1600 and 1911 by white, European males, usually in upper socioeconomic classes,” said Stewart. “In our performances, we want to present music by composers who traditionally have had under- or unrepresented voices, specifically, music by women, music by people of color, music by people on the LGBTQIA spectrum, and music by people not from the Western tradition.” 

The concert will open with the symphonic band, which will be playing Tectonic Plates by Adrian Sims. “Tectonic Plates is kind of a cinematic, aggressive, driving opener,” said Stewart. “Tectonic Plates is by a young African American composer who is actually still a college student in Baltimore. We are excited to feature music not only by well-established composers, but also up-and-coming composers.”

In addition to playing pieces composed by a variety of composers, Westminster’s band program tries to spotlight different styles of repertoire as well. “We do some transcriptions, in other words, pieces written for orchestra or other media, but we primarily focus on original wind band repertoire,” said Stewart. “So, in our first fall concert, we have a classical wind band piece for the wind ensemble, the Folk Song Suite by Ralph Vaughan Williams.” Only the first movement of Folk Song Suite, a fast-paced march titled Seventeen Come Sunday, will be played.

Afterward, the band will play a piece called Kalos Eidos by Carol Brittin Chambers. 

Kalos Eidos will be played by the combined wind ensemble and symphonic band members, making a larger band of about 85 people,” said Stewart. “It makes for a really fun experience for all the players and the audience as well.”

Next, the wind ensemble will perform a piece called Jinx by Ryan George, and finally, to conclude the concert, the percussion ensemble will perform a minimalistic piece by Marc Mellits.

“My favorite part about performing in band concerts is seeing the hard work pay off that we’ve done in the days leading up to the concert,” said Kelsey Chambers, an 11th-grade flute player in the wind ensemble. 

Nevertheless, performing in concerts also proves stressful for band members. 

“My least favorite part of performing in band concerts is the stress of the concert and knowing that any mistake is heard by a lot of people,” said Chambers.

         From the pieces on the program, a general student favorite is Jinx. 

“I’m most looking forward to playing Jinx,” said Chambers. 

Jinx, which features quick, highly syncopated rhythms, will be a piece to look forward to in the upcoming concert. 

“My favorite piece going into our concert is definitely Jinx, but all of our pieces are great,” said Yao. “We can always count on Dr. Stewart to pick new and exciting music.”