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Horizon

The Student News Site of Lynbrook High School

Horizon

The Student News Site of Lynbrook High School

Horizon

Music Department Wins Big at NYSSMA Majors and Hosts Annual Spring Concert

Photo+by+Bogomil+Mihaylov+on+Unsplash%0A++
Photo by Bogomil Mihaylov on Unsplash

The music department faced a double-header during the week of May 20, with two near back-to-back performances showcasing the months of effort that students and music faculty alike had put into their craft. 

Students in the Symphony Orchestra and Wind Ensemble headed to the Joseph G. Shapiro Family Hall at Hofstra University on Monday, May 20 to compete in the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) Majors program. Compared to a regular NYSSMA audition, in which usually one student prepares and performs a solo or duet, an entire ensemble competes in NYSSMA Majors. Orchestra teacher Veronica Underhill explained what NYSSMA Majors is after the letter she sent home to parents before the competition. “It is a great way to gain additional insight into the strengths and areas for growth of any musical ensemble and showcase the hard work the students have been doing all year,” Underhill shared. 

The orchestra started its day off early, arriving at the high school at 7:00 am before boarding the bus to Hofstra. Some musicians who are in both the orchestra and Wind Ensemble even packed up multiple instruments prior to the journey. Once at Hofstra, Underhill said that the rest of the day was “smooth sailing.” “We got out on time, set up early, the weather was beautiful, and since our group went on first, we got to warm up in our performance space, which was helpful in me addressing some acoustic changes…before we played for real,” Underhill explained. 

Each NYSSMA Majors audition consists of a performance of three pieces, and the orchestra played “Perseus” (which it had previously performed at the Winter Gala Festival of the Arts), the arrangement of “Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis,” and “Overture to the Wind.” This audition was clearly successful when Underhill was asked to recall her favorite part of the day: “My NYSSMA Majors favorite moment is easy—sharing the Gold that we earned with the kids on the bus and watching them cheer!” This gold award was due in part to the feedback that the orchestra had received last year and the improvements that Underhill successively made. “I was very happy last year when we got a Silver on a Level 5. This year, I took the judges’ feedback and applied it to the concert repertoire that I chose as well as certain elements of rehearsal and lessons. Having that improved rating from last year made me feel so validated as an ensemble director, and it must have felt incredible from the student side of things too,” Underhill expressed. 

The musical Monday continued when the Wind Ensemble departed the high school after third period to make its way to Hofstra. After meeting up with the dual-group stragglers from orchestra and basking in the spring sunshine, the Wind Ensemble headed into a practice room to warm up for their set. The Wind Ensemble’s concert theme for the spring were songs with themes of America, and the band played three out of those four songs at NYSSMA Majors: “Americans We,” “Variations on America,” and “American Overture.” Despite temperature and humidity issues in the transition from the practice room to the performance space, the Wind Ensemble thoroughly impressed its two judges, returning to the high school with a silver award. 

After NYSSMA Majors, all the musical ensembles in the school hunkered down in preparation for the Spring Concert, which took place on Wednesday, May 22. Preparation for the concert began immediately after the return from Holiday Recess, with more challenging sets ahead for all groups.

The Symphonic Band, under the direction of band teacher Brian White, kicked the evening off with their rendition of “Star Spangled Banner” and then performed their set of: “Rocketman,” an Elton John Medley including the hits “Rocketman,” “Crocodile Rock,” “Your Song,” and “I’m Still Standing”; “Flight of Valor,” a complicated piece with varying time signatures; and “Journey Through Orion.”

Next up was the Treble Choir under the direction of chorus teacher Timothy Waldvogel. “The Treble Choir performed ‘Homeward Bound,’ ‘Does The World Say,’ ‘E Piu Ti Penso,’ ‘Both Sides Now,’ and an Adele medley,” Waldvogel explained. After preparing and performing a diverse range of songs, Waldvogel walked away from the set with a sense of pride for the ensemble and for himself. “It’s always a rewarding experience when some of my personal work is being performed. While I wasn’t the composer, I did arrange ‘E Piu Ti Penso,’ which was exciting for me to have performed,” Waldvogel shared. 

Typically, the Wind Ensemble, also under the direction of White, performs last at concerts. For this concert, the Wind Ensemble moved up the ranks to perform third; this was in the interest of preserving the wind players’ “chops” (the facial and mouth muscles they use to play their instruments) and to accommodate the combined Full Orchestra and Mixed Chorus ending number. In addition to the pieces performed at NYSSMA Majors, the Wind Ensemble also played an arrangement of “America” from the musical West Side Story

Following the Wind Ensemble, the Concert Choir took to the risers. The chorus performed a series of (almost) one-word songs: “Legatum,” “Time,” “Dance,” “North,” and “The Prayer.” “Legatum” was the chorus’ foreign language piece, with reflective lyrics in Latin about how one wants to be remembered and leave a legacy. “Time” and “Dance” were both acapella, meaning that no instruments were used; “Dance” also included complex body percussion. “North” was a farewell tribute to the senior Concert Choir members, leaving both the singers, chorus teacher Barry Wyner, and families in tears. The set concluded with “The Prayer,” most famously performed by vocalists Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli. 

Wyner found that the most challenging part of preparing Concert Choir for the performance was the music itself. “A lot of it was new music; that was sort of a focus for this concert,” Wyner explained. By “new,” he is referring to the fact that the music has just recently been composed and published, often by an up-and-coming composer. “It wasn’t familiar to me, and there weren’t a lot of performances online for me to watch as a template, but that’s also part of the fun of doing new music. You get to put your own stamp on it,” Wyner shared. 

The Symphony Orchestra hit the stage after the Concert Choir exited. The ensemble performed “Overture to the Wind” and the arrangement of “Fantasia on a Theme from Thomas Tallis,” which it had performed at NYSSMA Majors earlier in the week. For the concert, the orchestra added music from the Harry Potter movies and “Toreador” as the full orchestra finisher. Given that NYSSMA Majors had taken place earlier that week, Underhill felt significantly more prepared for this concert than usual. “Since we did so well at NYSSMA Majors already, I felt like we were really prepared, really connected, the energy was great, and we were all in good spirits. It was the first time in…ever?…that I wasn’t a little ball of stress and anxiety like I usually am before a concert,” Underhill joked.
The Mixed Chorus closed the night with a four-song set, the final song including the full orchestra. The set opened with “People Get Ready,” an inspirational and spiritual piece. Next was the Harry Belafonte hit “Turn the World Around,” a piece with a Jamaican feel and a unique 5/4 time signature. An epic Lin Manuel Miranda medley followed, with excerpts selected from Miranda’s most famous musical epics: In the Heights, Moana, Encanto, and Hamilton

The Mixed Chorus’ final song was “The Awakening,” a combined effort with the Full Orchestra. The song tells of a nightmare in which there is no sound, and hence no music either. The singers wake up from the dream and rejoice in the music-filled world in which they live. Waldvogel reveled in the experience of the performance. “I love having the entire music department involved in a single song, and while it’s a lot to get together, it is certainly worth the reward!” Waldvogel exclaimed. 

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About the Contributor
Gianna Longo
Gianna Longo, Managing Editor
Hey there! My name’s Gianna, and I’m a member of the Class of 2025, along with many clubs here at LHS. In my spare time, you can find me on the stage, in the music wing, at my dance studio, or writing and editing for Horizon. Happy reading!