By Nora Lowe
Tubas, bases, violins. Instruments of all sizes were dispersed through the halls of White Plains High School, where a select group of students from around Westchester County had gathered to collaborate and prepare for a concert.
All-County is an annual music festival operated by WCSMA (the Westchester County School Music Association). Students from schools dispersed throughout Westchester County are selected to participate in a regional performance based upon their NYSSMA score the previous year, which is an entirely separate festival in which students prepare a piece of music and perform it for a judge to receive feedback. For three days in October and November, students from different schools met and collaborated with other members of the musical community in order to perform a concert on Thursday, November 7 at Purchase College.
There were a total of five ensembles included in the Area All-State festival: the Treble Chorus, Mixed Chorus, Band, String Orchestra, and Symphony Orchestra. Practices were devoted to becoming familiarized with conductors, tackling challenging pieces, and meeting section-mates. Despite the distractions of awaiting homework and responsibilities, musicians devoted three days to solely perfecting difficult pieces, ranging from classical Handel to upbeat Japanese marches. Rebecca Frieden spoke to the difficulties of missing school when she noted, “I’m missing three days of school next week, and Area All-State does make it a bit harder to make up my work.”
The diversity of the music was closely reflected by the diversity of the people. Musicians had the opportunity to socialize and collaborate with students from different backgrounds and interests. Most memorably, “Cookie Chris”, a percussionist who brings cookies to practices, distributed his baked goods to grateful students as well. Even Ms. Weiss, Byram’s band director who recently retired, made an appearance and visited her former students.
On the day of the concert, participants boarded a bus headed for Suny Purchase at 8:30 a.m. It was difficult to stay awake that morning, and both Caroline Kelly, a senior flute player, and Amelia Chung, a sophomore violin player, remarked about how “very tired” they felt. Students hurried into the somewhat overwhelming lobby of the performing arts hall. It was bustling with activities and preparations for the packed day.
Rehearsal was conducted for six hours, and after a brief hiatus, students returned for a series of concerts that would approach 10:00 p.m. Afterwards, musicians were greeted by parents brimming with pride. Some tearfully parted with new friends, while others nonchalantly exited the auditorium without looking back. Seth Morrison, a senior and trumpet player in the band, jokingly declared that “It’s been a trip,” and Tom Lombardo, a junior and alto sax player, concurred by simply saying, “It’s been alright.”
Although it was an exhausting ordeal, Area All-State was a rewarding and fulfilling experience for those who took part. Allison Zheng, a BHHS junior flute player commented, “I felt tired but accomplished, since the music was hard.” The program brought together talented musicians and dedicated conductors in order to create an unforgettable and beautiful production.