Putting Festival In Its Name – NYC Honors Music Festival for HS Students 2017

by Jeremy Tu ’17

For the past nine years, the Honors Music Festival for Middle School Students has brought together the most talented musicians from all over New York City to celebrate the rich diversity of music and musicians alike, as well as the education that music teachers are able to provide to cultivate such students. For the last five years, this opportunity has been extended to high school students, as displayed on Saturday, April 1st, 2017, where Grand Street Campus High School hosted its fifth annual Honors Music Festival for High School Students.

The festival began with a note from the principal of Grand Street Campus High School, who praised the musicians brought together that day and the day before for rehearsals. He thanked the parents and teachers who came to support and helped make the performance possible. Led by Mr. David Bloom, the string orchestra began with Edvard Grieg’s “Praeludium” from the Aus Holbergs Suite, a quick and precise piece.

The orchestra’s selections were chronological and each piece held many, but very distinct ritardandos, emphasizing the detail and the grandeur of each piece. Mr. Bloom, based on the way he conducted the orchestra, specialized on details of a piece, and it was clear he emphasized this in rehearsal because it showed in the performance. The only soloist for the orchestra, Ethan Fung ‘17, who played the solo in the West Side Story medley, said “I felt pretty confident and I was able to control the piece during those couple of measures. It helped to set the tone for the incoming melody.”

With the string orchestra still on stage, the chorus was introduced with Mr. Marc Greene as its conductor. They sang a variety of songs, two with Biblical connotations (“Last Words of David”, “Ain’t-a That Good News”). This was fitting, given the auditorium’s church-like atmosphere.

During the intermission, I met Mr. Dimitri Saliani, principal of Eleanor Roosevelt High School, fellow Technite, class of 1988 and formerly a Mechanical Engineering major at Tech. He came to see four of his students in the concert band. He also had to leave for another event out in Manhattan. The concert band began soon before he needed to leave, playing The Washington March. He turned to me and said, “This is a good song to exit to,” adding to the light mood of the festival. Towards the end of the song, the trombones stood from their seats and played, adding even more comic relief. Led by Dr. Brian K. Doyle, the selections featured very consistent and more impromptu rhythms, the song “Melodius Thunk” using various instruments to form its rhythm.

Despite his time constraints that day, Mr. Saliani admired the performances, stating: “The Honors Music Festival was such an amazing event that brought together so many talented musicians and vocalists from the entire city.  It showcased the talents of our students and allowed them to collaborate and work with so many other talented individuals and music departments.  It was heartening and an honor to see such a professional show that demonstrated the importance of music programs in our schools.”

What really made the event feel like a festival shined at the end, when the jazz band played. Throughout its selections, most of the musicians had solos and lots of support from the audience. Their pieces incorporated various percussion, saxophones, pianos, and even a double bass! For the final piece, “Spain”, conductor Dr. Daniel Burwasser even added the audience, encouraging them to clap during the chorus. This had everyone tapping their feet, ending the festival on a strong, jazzy note.

There is no doubt that Tech’s orchestra, band, and hopefully chorus, will shine just as bright, if not brighter, at our next festival, to be held in March 2018.

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