OP Brass Shines in CJMEA Honors Band (With Concert Audio!)

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Back to Article
Back to Article

OP Brass Shines in CJMEA Honors Band (With Concert Audio!)

This past week, several members of the OP Band were selected to perform for the Central Jersey Music Educators Association Honors Band at Sayreville War Memorial High School. The selected individuals rehearsed for only 2 days before putting on a show consisting of 7 pieces. The individuals were selected based on recommendations from Mr. Van Hoven. These students were sophomore Jack Stickler (trumpet), junior Jacob Tameta (Tuba), senior James Kim (Trumpet), senior Jack Coyne (Tenor Saxophone), and senior Steve Fudenna (trumpet). James, Coyne, and I (Steve) all took part in the same honors band last year and had a blast being able to play alongside some of the most talented high school musicians across central Jersey. Our positive past experience made it an easy decision for James, Coyne, and myself to return. Under the guidance of conductor Nicholas Santoro, the Wind ensemble director at NJIT, the band finely-tuned a memorable performance enjoyed by not only the audience but the participants of the band as well. 

The preparation for the performance began on Thursday with a rehearsal from 6-9 pm. After checking in and assembling our instruments, we moved to the stage, where we met Mr. Santoro for the first time. Right away, his passion for music and the ability to control the band displayed his prowess as a musician. Additionally, his crazed sense of humor kept the atmosphere upbeat during the lengthy rehearsals. Mr. Santoro immediately admitted to us that he chose a program that was too difficult for us. As we all sat in fear, Mr. Santoro explained that we all deserved to be in the band, and were capable of playing at a sophisticated level, beyond what we believed our capabilities were. He also added that playing a difficult repertoire would not only be more fun and entertaining but would help us improve our skills as musicians as well; a prediction that turned out to be spot on. We rehearsed again the following day during the same time slot before the concert day on Saturday. After 6 hours of diligent rehearsal, the band felt confident about the performance.

 

Concert day began at 4:30 pm, where we fine-tuned a couple of rough patches for the first 2 hours. We then took a break to take pictures by section, before having dinner prior to the concert. Dressed up in tuxedos, suits, and dresses, the band was more than prepared for the highly-anticipated concert. To open the show, we played the National Anthem triumphantly, an emphatic beginning to the performance. Our first selected piece of the program was The Purple Carnival, by Harry Alford. This complex, energetic march made a statement early, showcasing the skillful talent of the band. The trumpet section was highlighted specifically in this piece, as our part consisted of many bugle-like phrases in the upper register of the instrument. James, Jack, and I agreed that as trumpet players, this was the most difficult piece, yet also the most fun. 

 

Following The Purple Carnival, we played Credo, by James Barnes. This piece was a bit slower than The Purple Carnival, bit more dramatic, and also much longer. The trumpet section was featured again in this piece, with the woodwinds also possessing key, sprightly melodies in the slow sections. Personally, my favorite part of the piece was about 3 minutes in, where the 1st and 2nd trumpet parts engage in the melody together in a call-and-response fashion. This was a section we spent extra time on, and the extra work paid off. Next, we performed the 1st, 3rd, and 4th movements of Puszta, by Jan Van der Roost. This bouncy tune was a song created as a gypsy dance, featuring the upbeat rhythms from the clarinets and flutes. This piece was especially interesting because of the multiple shifts in tempo and key signature, diversifying the piece and evoking multiple different tones. This piece also featured an incredibly delicate clarinet solo prior to the 3rd movement.  

 

After Puszta, the percussion section performed a group ensemble piece called Augmented Realities, void of all air blowing instruments. This piece was unique, featuring some uncommon instruments holding important parts such as the triangle and even a whistle. Following the percussion ensemble performance, we slowed the tempo of the concert, performing a gentle, soaring piece called Shepherd’s Song, arranged by Geoff Richards. This flowing, legato piece showcased the masterful fragility the woodwinds were able to play with, coupled with the strong triumphant melodies bursting over during the climactic moments of the piece. While some disapproved of this slow song for being boring to play, I found it to be beautiful and quite relaxing to both play and listen to.

 

Flipping the switch quickly, we transitioned into our next piece, Malaguena, arranged by Nestico. This tropical, upbeat, piece immediately lifted the vibe of the atmosphere. After a powerful, dramatic, Spanish entrance by the trumpets followed by a mystical introduction by the rest of the band, the piece breaks into a high tempo jam featuring the trumpets and saxophones with the melody. The piece also highlighted the percussion section, who carried the song with underlying bass rhythms, keeping the piece light and upbeat. After Malaguena, the band was beginning to tire, and I think I can speak for the trumpet section as a whole when I say that our lips were in immense pain from playing so much. However, the final piece and most daunting piece remained, Strategic Air Command, by Clifton Williams.

 

Mr. Santoro told us that Strategic Air Command is one of his favorites and has been a signature piece in almost all of his ensemble bands. What better way to close the concert than with another vibrant march? The piece immediately begins with a dramatic trumpet entrance, coupled with steady snare and bass drums and crash cymbals, the perfect ingredients for an effective march. Despite our tired lips, we pushed through to reach the highest notes plaguing the piece. This piece lacked any rest for the trumpet section, requiring us to play consistently throughout the entire piece. It took the last bits of control in my lips to push out the final few notes, leaving me covered in sweat after an exhausting performance. However, I was beyond proud of the performance and had so much fun playing with the group. It was an incredible experience, and I will continually look back on this event as one of my most fond memories of high school.