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The Orchestra’s Wintery Wonderland

Conclusion+of+Strings+2%E2%80%99s+performance
Felix Gerzon (‘24)
Conclusion of Strings 2’s performance

On December 20th, Brooklyn Tech’s Visual and Performing Arts Department hosted the annual winter orchestra concert, showcasing a newly introduced brass ensemble this year. The performance consisted of an assortment of pop, rock, holiday, and classical songs, including audience favorites like Taylor Swift’s “Lover,” and the film My Neighbor Totoro’s “Tonari no Totoro.”

In the days just before the orchestra concert, Orchestra teacher Mr. Alexander Taspuolous and his students worked tirelessly in class, and after school, to prepare for the big night. 

“The students practiced really hard [and] they work every day at rehearsal,” said Mr. Taspuolous. “A lot of them practice at lunch or after school, and then anybody who has extra [roles], like solos or conducting a group–they’re putting in, I don’t even know how many hours into [rehearsing].”

Strings Level 2 opened with an arrangement of The Beatles’ classic “Eleanor Rigby” written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney—a soothing song that eased the audience into the concert. They followed with Harold Arlen’s hit, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” the nostalgic childhood song written for the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz. 

Finally, an upbeat and cheerful version of Anthony Susi’s “A Joyous Sleigh Ride” truly brought on the holiday spirit and ended Strings Level 2’s performance on a high note. 

Next up on the program, the Intermediate Orchestra did not disappoint, dazzling the audience with their own rendition of Taylor Swift’s Grammy-nominated song “Lover.” While “Lover” was not originally set to be a part of the concert, Tasopoulos was determined to include a student-requested piece, and “Lover” found itself the perfect spot at the center of their setlist.

Rui Gao (‘25) conducting the Symphonic Orchestra (BTHS Student Media)

Taking the stage next was the Symphonic Orchestra, an orchestral club that is almost entirely run by students. Practicing almost entirely outside of school hours, these musicians dedicated months of their free time toward preparing for their performance of “Tonari no Totoro,” the theme song from the Japanese movie My Neighbor Totoro

For conductor and president of the Symphonic Orchestra, Finance major Rui Gao (‘25), all the practice paid off. “I would say [leading and conducting] is difficult, but it’s also really rewarding in the end,” Gao noted. “Once you get on stage, it’s rewarding knowing how much you’ve done to get to that point and showing off all the hard work you’ve done to complete the task.”

After the intermission, AP of Visual & Performing Arts Mr. Gustave Trombetta introduced Brooklyn Tech’s newly-formed Brass Ensemble, whose approval this year capped a nearly year-long effort to expand the Arts Department.

Smaller than typical orchestral groups of 40-50 students, with only 17 students, the ensemble is solely made up of brass instruments, including the tuba, trombone, baritone horn, french horn, and trumpet. 

Filling the auditorium with the holiday spirit, the Brass Ensemble led with Irving Berlin’s cheery holiday classic, “White Christmas,” and then had the audience jumping and clapping to Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.”

Brass Ensemble soloist and Mechatronics and Robotics major Elena Voumvourakis (‘25) shared her experience partaking in the newly formed ensemble. She shared, “I’m really enjoying the pieces we’re playing and how it’s run. There’s a lot of freedom we can do improvised solos.” As a trumpet player in both the jazz band and the brass ensemble, she also noted her comparisons between the two music groups. “The sound when done correctly is very powerful,” said Voumvourakis, “When the performers know how to change their dynamics and their volume it can be very beautiful at times, much quieter, or much louder, entertaining, and jumpy.”

Last, but certainly not least, was the Advanced Orchestra. Performing a total of five songs, they ended the night with a bang. Their pieces were notably lengthier and extremely complex than the earlier offerings.

Vaishnavi Venkatesh (‘24) performing in Advanced Orchestra (Tao Chen (‘24))

Soloist and concertmaster, Mechatronics and Robotics major Vaishnavi Venkatesh (‘24), stole the spotlight with a nearly ten-minute solo of Camille Saint-Saëns’ exuberant “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso.” Commanding center stage as the orchestra performed alongside her, Venkatesh delivered an undeniably amazing performance of such an advanced, rhythmically challenging piece.

For Venkatesh, preparing for this moment was no easy feat. “As a musician, it is definitely very strenuous,” she explained. “We definitely do months of preparation in our orchestra room on the ninth floor. Once we get to the auditorium though, it’s definitely very intensive. Usually, we never have enough time as we like so we are always rushing to get everything ready.” Yet for Venkatesh, her roles come with the added responsibilities of a concertmaster. She noted, “As a concertmaster too…when things go wrong, I have to be the one to step up and fix it. So, it definitely comes with an added responsibility, but all in all, the preparation for the concert is always really fun and exhilarating and it’s really exciting to spend time with everyone.”

The Advanced Orchestra ended the exhilarating night of performances with “Troika”’ from the film music Lieutenant Kijé. The piece, referring to a sleigh pulled by three horses, was a lengthy, yet upbeat piece with various orchestral additions such as bells and drums. 

The crowd of family and friends of the orchestra cheered thunderously with a well-deserved round of applause. Many even shouted performer’s names in support and awe. 

Following the concert, Vaishnavi Venkatesh recalled a piece of advice from a fellow musician that has stuck with her, “His advice to me was to savor every moment, and that pretty much summed up everything for me. So that’s what I tried my best to do.”

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Lauren Wong, Staff Writer
Lauren Wong (she/her) is a Staff Writer. Lauren is on The Survey because she would like to explore new opportunities within journalism. While writing may not have always been a passion for her, she has always found interest in the creation of news articles. As a result, she would also like to improve her journalistic and overall writing skills. Lauren reads The New York Times because she has found them to be generally unbiased and reliable when it comes to news sources. Brooklyn Tech also provides her with a free subscription, so she is able to browse and research to her pleasure. One future career goal that Lauren aspires to achieve is to become a more well-rounded writer. This is because writing is not just beneficial for journalism, but for any and all aspects of life. In Lauren's free time, she enjoys playing tennis and spending time with family and friends. She signifies the importance of spending every moment with those you love because time is precious. Lauren's favorite book is The Joy Luck Club because it signifies a part of her culture that she feels is severely under-recognized by society.

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