January 10 and 11 were tiring but exciting days for hundreds of high school students in Eastern Connecticut. Among them, eleven students from Waterford High participated in the Connecticut Music Educators Association (CMEA) Eastern Region concert, and I was one of the eleven students. These students performed in one of five music groups: concert band, orchestra, jazz, treble choir, and mixed choir.
On January 10, the WHS students left school before their last class to take a bus to UConn, where they rehearsed until 8pm. At the beginning of the band rehearsal, I was introduced to the band director, and we started warming up right afterwards. I only knew one other person in the band, WHS senior Connor Megan. Everyone else from my school was in the other groups.
The students were entirely independent with their preparation and being at UConn. It was their responsibility to be prepared with the music and with bringing what they needed, and when there was a break between rehearsals, the students had to decide where to eat or to pass the time. I found the first day to be a wonderful experience – I learned how to be more independent, and I was able to hear how a band of 120 experienced members sounds.
On January 11, we left WHS early in the morning, and when we arrived, the rehearsals were about to begin. That day we “only” rehearsed for an hour and a half, and after a quick lunch break, we took a shuttle bus to the auditorium for our dress rehearsal that took another hour. Although the rehearsals felt dreadfully long, it was entirely worth the time. The concert sounded close to perfect. All five groups performed pieces with rich sounds from their instruments or voices and with evident passion.
The concert opened with the band performing “Foundry” by John Mackey, a piece that sounds similar to an industry. All thirteen percussion members were a part of this piece, playing the timpani, whip, clang, vibraslap, gong, and even tin cans to get a unique metal sound.
The orchestra performed pieces that were very interesting as well. They were intriguing, and the members performed with such confidence that it was impossible not to enjoy listening. Their third piece was “Symphony No. 2 (“Romantic”), movement III” by Howard Hanson, which was expressing the love of a parent to a child rather than the commonly known meaning of romance. Andrew Impellitteri, Kayla and Alyssa Mathiowetz, Shashwat Kala, and Genevieve Nuttall from WHS were part of the orchestra.
The jazz ensemble performed four tunes, one of which was “Caravan” by Duke Ellington, as recorded by Chicago. All of the members were clearly happy to perform. WHS senior Nathaniel Ross performed on the piano. They received such a loud applause at the end of their concert, it sounded like the audience was applauding for a pop band’s live concert.
The treble choir, consisting only of girls, performed next. WHS students Nicolette Fardon, Alaina Milukas, and Maxine Adamson performed in this choir. They finished with “Universal Song” by Daniel J. Hall, a piece that expresses appreciation and love for everyone. It brought a connection to the audience to thank them for coming to listen and for the parents who support their kids to become such talented musicians.
Finally was the mixed choir. Their group was so large that they filled up the stage. With so many voices, every pitch that was sung was clearly heard, and no wavering voices were noticeable. Their final piece, the final piece of the concert, was “Oh, What a Pretty Little Baby,” arranged by Susan Gardner, in which three girls sung solos with poised voices. The audience applauded and shouted for them, and the entire choir, for quite a while.
Any high school musician who might pursue music in life should consider taking part in the event. High school classes have limited benefits that can only be found in organizations such as the CMEA festivals. The CMEA Eastern Region festival only accepts the best musicians in the region, and the professional conductors for each group could be from anywhere in the country. It is quite a unique experience.