By Stephen Yoon
Rutgers University hosted its very first Mid-Atlantic Honors Wind Band Festival recently, giving top high school wind ensembles a groundbreaking and amazing chance to perform on a university stage. The Verona High School Concert Band led by Erik Lynch, the Randolph High School Wind Ensemble led by David A. Aulenbach, and Bridgewater-Raritan High School Wind Ensemble led by Lawrence D. Markiewicz and Gary A. Myer displayed their talents for a fully packed audience at Nicholas Music Center in New Brunswick, NJ on February 25, 2009 with the Rutgers University Symphony Band closing out the concert. This concert also included a special performance by Mason Gross faculty member Stephen Arthur Allen, the professor of euphonium at the Mason Gross School of Rutgers University.
Organized primarily by the student-run Rutgers chapter of the MENC, the National Association of Music Education, this concert was quite an ambitious undertaking by Rutgers MENC Instrumental Coordinator Ryan Jameson and the president of Rutgers MENC, Kristen Conrad. The MENC chapter at Rutgers is made up primarily of students majoring in Music Education, and they were clearly very dedicated to the task. Coordinating a concert comprising of four separate bands is certainly no small task, and they did a wonderful job as the event went off without a hitch, much to the spectators’ delight.
“A special thanks goes to Ryan Jameson for his expertise, dedication, and untiring efforts to coordinate this event,” said Rutgers Symphony Band Conductor Darryl Bott. “Also, to the entire undergraduate membership of Rutgers MENC, Kristen Conrad, president, for their support and efforts to make today’s event a success.” The Verona High School Concert Band, which has received consecutive Gold/Superior ratings at the New Jersey State Concert Band Festival, Music in the Parks, and North American Music Festivals, performed a John Phillip Sousa march, The Fairest of the Fair as well, as Flight of the Years by Patrick J. Burns. Their rousing performance started the concert well, as both pieces featured an up-tempo, driving beat.
Randolph High School’s Wind Ensemble was next, performing Pageant by Vincent Persichetti and The Nature of the Beast by Julie Ann Giroux. They have also received numerous Superior and Gold ratings at festivals, and have performed at the Annual State Gala Concert every year since its inception in 1998. They displayed their versatility by following the solemn, regal Pageant with the dark tones of The Nature of the Beast.
Bridgewater-Raritan High School Wind Ensemble was the last out of the invited high school groups to perform, and they capped it off in an impressive manner. This Gold and Superior voted band has performed in such prestigious settings as the New York Wind Band Festival in Carnegie Hall, and their experience and talent certainly showed. They displayed a preference for a more traditional repertoire, starting us off with a conventional piece in Divertimento by Vincent Persichetti and finishing with the lively English tune of Shepherds Hey by Percy Aldridge Granger.
Finally the Rutgers Symphony Band took the stage to serve as a finale. The seventy seven member band, comprised mostly of undergraduate instrumental music majors led by Professor Darryl Bott did not disappoint, putting on a fantastic show consisting of three extremely difficult and technically challenging pieces. They began with the stately Fanfare and Allegro by Clifton Williams. This was followed by the faculty guest solo, a tradition at Rutgers University Symphony Band concerts. This particular solo was Napoli, Canzona Napolitana con Variazioni by Herman Bellstedt, performed by Dr. Stephen Arthur Allen on euphonium in a sublime rendition of a classic piece. Indeed, Dr. Allen displayed the strength of Mason Gross School of the Arts’ instrumental faculty, putting on a performance that was both technically astounding and musically brilliant. The Symphony Band did a great job of carrying the momentum, capping off the concert with the very intense and ominous Symphony No. 2 by John Barnes Chance. Despite the garden variety title, it is an extremely modern piece with eclectic harmonies that cause an almost palpable tension in the listeners, which the band delivered resplendently.
Overall the event was a very successful one that set the standard for future Mid-Atlantic Honors Wind Band Festivals to come. This groundbreaking event will give other stand-out high school bands a chance to experience a performance on a bigger stage and give future musicians invaluable experience. Indeed, the Rutgers chapter of the MENC and Mason Gross School of the Arts are creating an invaluable event for the today’s young musicians.