Cocoro Wachi (FHS) on left, senior John Peterson (PHS) on right alongside the rest of the band standing up (concert just ended). (Siomara Valdez)
Cocoro Wachi (FHS) on left, senior John Peterson (PHS) on right alongside the rest of the band standing up (concert just ended).

Siomara Valdez

A celebration of music in District 211

March 16, 2023

Honors Band Concert

The harmonious music rang throughout the auditorium to the ears of many listeners. The dim lights set the scene to the melodic tunes played by some of the most talented musicians across the district.  

Students from James B. Conant, William Fremd, Hoffman Estates, Palatine, and Schaumburg High School came together to perform an extraordinary performance on Saturday, March 11th at 3 pm. They had three practices leading up to the concert.

Hoffman Estates band director, Brian Ferguson opens the concert by thanking everyone for being there to witness a group of talented musicians across the district. (Siomara Valdez)

“It’s always been a great opportunity to play more advanced and recognizable music,” senior and wind symphony member Orion Leverenz said. “Just to get together with a bunch of other talented musicians that are also in high school and not some random old guy from your church, it’s a great opportunity really.” 

Guest Conductor, Don Shupe met with the band the previous day and part of the rehearsal the same day leading to the concert. Besides that, Shupe had not met with the band in any previous rehearsals. He is a guest conductor for both jazz and concert bands. During the concert, he cracked a few jokes and made the many parents in the crowd laugh.

Guest conductor Mr. Shupe walks onto the podium as he is introduced to the crowd. (Siomara Valdez)

“As a senior in the honor band I found the experience to be enjoyable as both the music and the director,” senior and wind symphony member Bill Shoults said. “That challenged me to use everything I’ve learned as a musician to perform at my best.” 

The songs performed by the talented musicians included: “A Mother of a Revolution!” arranged by Omar Thomas, “Symphony No. 1 for Band” arranged by Claude T. Smith which included movements “I. Flourish”, “II. March”, and “IV. Toccata”, “Sheltering Sky” arranged by John Mackey. Lastly “Dance of the Jesters” arranged by Tchaikovsky was performed. 

“Honor band was a great experience for me,” junior and wind symphony member Gabe Casbarian said. “I got to meet a bunch of other great musicians and play some amazing songs.” 

“A Mother of a Revolution!” is composed by Omar Thomas and truly is an impacting piece if you know its roots. The percussionist opens the piece and brings in what it feels, empowering. The dynamic of the song, in the beginning, starts quiet but as the brass and woodwinds allude, the song feels like an intro to a superhero movie. 

“My part in the piece was a lot of low, fast, repeating lines followed by the really powerful melody,” senior and wind symphony member Ria Iyer said. “The melody sounded really proud, but still melancholy, and I think it was a topical way to show the event. It was one of my favorite pieces to play, I had a blast.”

Silence falls before the first piece “A Mother of a Revolution” is performed. The song rejuvenated the atmosphere. (Siomara Valdez)

The song was commissioned by Dean McDowell, a director for the Desert Winds Freedom Band. It is in honor of Marsha Johnson, a trans woman, and the bravery of all those during the Stonewall Riots.

“Having taken history courses before, I know about the motives for the riots,” Iyer said. “I think it was amazing that we got to play a strong piece remembering it, and ultimately being an ally for the LGBTQIA+ community.”

The second piece was a set of movements arranged by composer Claude T. Smith. “Symphony No. 1 for Band” has four movements but three were performed in the concert. The first movement, “ Flourish”, was a very uprising piece to start this movement, with a mighty fanfare from the brass. It was an overture, the style of the dynamics sometimes lowered in volume, but then shot up dramatically in sound. It felt as if a flower was blooming. It was the start and upbringing of something powerful.

The second movement, “March”, is played in a minor key. It gives off a dark feeling in the atmosphere as the melody is carried by the oboes. The trumpet’s overture alongside the lower brass creates a feeling that almost feels sinister but intriguing. At the end of the piece, all elements from every single instrument come together and create a beautiful divining march.

The final piece of this movement, “Toccata” was a quick pace with many dynamics. The piece had a trumpet solo, Mark Ariagno, from Fremd High School. It was an introduction to the main melody of the piece. In some instances, the piece felt like a waltz. The percussion had a section of keyboard instruments such as the xylophone and vibraphone that collided with the woodwinds to create a music box sort of feeling. The piece ended with an allusion to the first movement, with that similar fanfare opening of “Flourish”. 

“My favorite piece was ‘Symphony No. 1 for Band,’” Casbarian said. “Especially movement two because of the trumpet fanfare and the last third of the song. It was very powerful.” 

Soloist Mark Ariagno from Fremd High School stands up after the band is done performing “Symphony No. 1 for Band” movement “IV. Toccata”. (Siomara Valdez)

The piece soon after, “Sheltering Sky” contradicted the last two pieces. It was composed by American composer, John Mackey. A calmer piece that feels like you’re floating in the sky. It feels very nostalgic as well. The final piece to conclude the concert was “Dance of the Jesters”. Composed by Tchaikovsky, it is a very memorable piece. The piece was originally composed for the ballet, The Snow Maidens, and expresses that of Russian Folk Dance Music. A beautiful and cheery way to end the concert.

“My favorite thing about this is when you bring all the high schools together with minimal rehearsals and make this happen,” Palatine band director Carlos Esquivel said. “It proves to be a testament to the passion in music.”

Honors Orchestra Concert Recap

Last month, on Saturday, February 11th, the Honors Orchestra Concert was held at James B. Conant High School. There were three songs performed which included: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Marche Slave Op. 31”, Robert Schumann’s “Piano Concerto in A Minor Op. 54 I. Allegro Affettuoso”, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Capriccio Espagnol Op. 34”. 

“The music was a different type of music I wasn’t used to playing,” junior and symphonic band member Zach Brown said. “So playing it was a little difficult to learn but I figured it out.”

The second piece, ”Piano Concerto in A Major Op. 54”, featured a piano solo. Pianist, Sreedevi Prasad, performed her solo with raw emotion. The piece altogether with the violins, woodwinds, brass, and percussion was performed with emotion that was reflected onto the audience.

“One of the really cool things about this was being able to play really tough orchestra music next to students of mine,” Palatine assistant band director Katie Samayoa said. “In the professional world, it’s really difficult music to get together in such a short amount of time. When I showed up and played with [the students], it wasn’t that anyone was struggling, everyone knew the music.”

Band and Orchestra directors were a part of the concert and played along with the students. (Siomara Valdez)

Both concerts were an amazing opportunity to listen to music that is really contrasting with each other. Being able to be an audience member and support my friends who were part of a group of talented musicians was an experience. Music is truly a beautiful thing. We can interpret it as any emotion we want it to be or feel the many emotions the composer was able to communicate with the audience. These pieces that were played in both the band and orchestra were from very different periods. It shows us a piece in the present time that composers from that time were capable of creating. To be able to write music is talent, but in performing it, you need to be in tune with the piece. That takes the mind to interpret what it means to the musician and I think it’s beautiful to play a piece with so much emotion.

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  • M

    MarcoMar 16, 2023 at 1:06 pm

    As someone who attended the event, I can confirm there was great music there.

  • S

    Steve GomezMar 16, 2023 at 10:26 am

    This is awesome!