On the Friday evening before exam week, around 80 students, parents, and faculty gathered to hear the Orchestra and the three Jazz Ensembles share the sound of their efforts this fall. The two concerts coincided with the end of the Hand and Heart Auction, allowing musicians and listeners to experience another facet of the Upper School (US) art scene.
The December 14 concerts began at 7 p.m. in the Theater with Orchestra Director Brian Reasoner conducting. The ensemble performed two of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s later works: his four-movement “Symphony No. 35,” followed by the overture to the famous opera “Le nozze di Figaro” (The Marriage of Figaro).
Mr. Reasoner said the opera overture, which features technically difficult wind parts, aimed to showcase talent in the senior class and the rest of the woodwind and brass sections.
“Mozart must have had incredible players in mind when he wrote the opera because the parts for the woodwinds especially are much more difficult than in the symphony,” Mr. Reasoner said. “It really exploits the woodwinds and brass sections.”
Just after the performance, musicians backstage who played woodwinds and brass, including Claire Zhang ’20, Philip Liu ’20, and Oliver Shapiro ’21, said they were proud of how they had pulled together. The orchestra began work on the two pieces in September and rehearsed together twice a week.
Chorale Director Joe Horning praised the student performers’ versatility.
“I can think of at least three, maybe four or five, musicians in the orchestra ensemble who play two instruments,” Mr. Horning said, naming David Min ’22, who plays cello and oboe; Philip Satterthwaite ’19, who plays oboe and flute; and Avik Sarkar ’19, who plays cello and piano and who composes as well. “I bet there are others that I don’t know of.”
Philip said he enjoys being part of the US Orchestra because the group risks complex pieces for the sake of learning and improving.
“In outside orchestras, we usually play shorter pieces that can show off the orchestra so that other people want to join, but at BB&N we’re not really showing off,” he said, explaining that short pieces are often easier to master, and make an orchestra sound more skillful to an audience but may deprive the players of adequate challenge. “Mr. Reasoner is exposing us to more classical repertoire, like Mozart and Beethoven symphonies, and that’s nice.”
Violinist Vinayak Sharma ’19 said he was happy the group was able to maintain a proper tempo throughout the performance.
“We practiced slower than the music is intended to be, because we knew that the adrenaline of performing makes you play faster,” Vinayak said. “I’d say overall we did well with the timing.”
During the interim between the two concerts, audience members and musicians mingled in Renaissance Hall, some placing bids in the Hand and Heart Auction shortly before it closed. A table of food set up outside the Chorale Room, where the jazz concert would soon take place, and the surprise of a few jazz performers playing a planned Thelonius Monk piece in the hallway helped invite the crowd to the second musical event.
The Ninth Grade Jazz Ensemble began the jazz concert at 8 p.m. and were followed by The Monday Jazz Ensemble, composed of all sophomores. The evening ended with a set from the Tuesday Night Jazz Ensemble, the largest of the three groups with 10 players from the sophomore, junior, and senior classes. The freshman group included a trio of alto, tenor, and baritone saxes, and the Monday group was the only group to feature a trumpet. Each ensemble played a set of four songs by a wide range of composers, such as Lee Morgan and Sun Ra.
Afterwards, Jayanth Uppaluri ’20, a drummer in the Tuesday group, said he was satisfied with how the performances had gone.
“We all had some really nice solos—I especially liked the tune Thursday’s Theme by Benny Golson, where I felt like we were all together and in it,” Jayanth said.
Jazz Band Director Pandelis Karayorgis explained that the frequent improvised solos, a defining characteristic of jazz music, gave students an opportunity to display their individual talent as well as their ability to play under other students’ solos and complement the team as a whole.
“We listen to the repertoire and learn about the history of the music and love the music and just live it. Eventually the idea with jazz is that you learn the basics but develop your own voice, just like in any art,” said Mr. Karayorgis, praising individual sections in the ensembles, including the Tuesday Night Ensemble’s rhythm section and the Ninth Grade Ensemble’s horn section.
Henry Goddard ’20, a pianist in the Tuesday group, said his favorite aspect of the US music program is finding new connections through music.
“A lot of the kids at BB&N are pretty talented, so it’s easy to play with a lot of different people and meet new people that way,” he said.