Last night was the last concert with the Youth Bands for the 2010-11 season, and it was a really good event. The day was a busy one for me, as I was playing the Elon Law School graduation in Greensboro in the afternoon, and had to drive straight from that to Meymandi for the Youth Band concert. Jesse was in charge of getting all of the equipment down to the hall, and with the help of Berry Credle and the Holly Springs HS band truck, it all went smoothly. I arrived at the hall just as the Brass Ensemble was doing their sound check, and everything was settling in. Sarah H. was taking pictures (including the pics in this post) and I was getting things worked out for the front of house with our wonderful Business Manager Megan.
TYBB set up for their sound check and we made sure our soloists were comfortable in the hall. We hit a couple spots then cleared the stage to wait for the show to start. I wandered around and talked with some people waiting to see the show, including the Emmett’s who I rarely see anymore, some Sanderson kids (and David), and a few others.
The Brass Ensemble played the first half of the concert. Of course it is an understatement that Jesse has done a fantastic job leading that band. Those kids are so psyched to be in his band and they have are so good now. Their program was really challenging, which is something I really like. Put the bar over their heads and make them jump for it. They did, and played a spectacular concert.
TYBB set up at intermission and played the second half of the program. We opened with Procession of the Nobles, which has a ton of notes and is a good challenge for the band. We played it on tour back in April, but haven’t touched it much since then to leave time to work on other things. Next up we featured two soloists from within the band. The original plan was to feature Jesse and myself as soloists, but we felt it was more important that these kids get an opportunity to solo with the bands, so we changed our plans.
Cameron Cobb played the Rodney Newton Capriccio for Tuba and Brass Band. Cameron has been in the Youth Band program for five years, and three, possibly four in the TYBB. He has been a private student of mine for al least that long as well, and it has been a lot of fun working with him over the years. He is one of the finest students I have helped develop and I have so much respect for him. He played the heck out his solo, and the band did a great job working it up in such a short time. About three weeks!!!
Sean Blye was next up playing Be Thou My Vision, which he did on tour with us. Sean has been in the program as long as Cameron with al least three years in the TYBB. With his older brother Danny, the Blye’s have had the longest tenure for a family in the youth band. I can’t really remember a youth band without one of them in it. It won’t be the same with them gone. Sean played great, as usual.
Our big featured tune was the Purcell Variations by Kenneth Downie. This is one of the great master works written for the brass band medium, and presented some big challenges for the band. After rehearsal began on this after our tour, it was clear that technically, we would be able to handle the piece without too many problems. This is great, because it allowed us to tackle the many musical moments that are built into the tune. This is the stuff that is most fun to work on I think the band really enjoyed spending time delving into. It really did make the last portion of the season a lot of fun in rehearsals because we were beyond simply pounding parts into kids just to be able to play them, but interpreting the music and making it important through spontaneous creativity. In performance, it came off really well. We put everything we had into playing this work and it was a truly memorable performance that I will never forget.
Night on Bald Mountain was next, and while this wasn’t as technically sound as the Purcell, the main musical ideas surely came across. Orchestral transcriptions have significant challenges for brass players, forcing cornet players to play violin parts etc, and pushing the band to its limits of skill and prowess. We still played it pretty well, then ended with Cossack Patrol and and encore with Circus Bee. The trombones memorized it and stood out front to play it. I said they could if the memorized it in passing, they did and they held me to it. I never mind doing things like that when they are motivated enough to do this on their own. I surely did not put that on their plate (this time). I still think its awesome that they wanted to perform, and went above and beyond for the opportunity.
The coolest thing of the evening was the gift presented to me and Jesse from ALL of the kids in the band. They collected money and presented us with a check for $1815 dollars. I had no idea they did this, and it was a huge surprise. The big check was very creative and very funny. A lot of creativity and work went into pulling this off, and it helps us get closer to buying new instruments. This topped off a most wonderful day.
With the season being over, I can reflect back over the things that happened this year, and it may have been one of our best seasons yet with the youth bands. We played great every time we hit the stage, played some cool music, had a good tour, some great clinics, and most important of all, made lives better for a whole bunch of really awesome kids. I am used to having awesome kids in this program, always have. This year though, they were more than awesome. I am super proud of the work they did, and the progress they made, and the talent that they collectively shared. They have amazing and supportive parents, and are just fun to be around. I will miss the ones leaving us a lot. I hope that they continue to play music after high school, and hope that they found a love and passion for it somewhere within them, and am proud that the youth bands may have had a part in that.