All-District Concert Series
Maple Hill’s Lia Acevedo Rodriguez practices her violin an extra three days a week. Bella Francis and Nathan Garnere meet up in the Twin Towers band room during lunch to practice new music. Violinist Zichi Lou from Presidential Park feels extra motivated to improve.
These students, and hundreds more, are performing in the new all-district concert series, held on February 28 (orchestra), March 1 (band) and March 6 (chorus) at Twin Towers Middle School. These free performances, which begin at 6:30 p.m., will showcase our talented musicians from the orchestras, bands and choirs in all grade levels and schools, all on the same stage.
Participation in these concerts is providing our scholars with experiences they wouldn’t have otherwise. They are learning more difficult music than usual. Maya Robinson, a fifth-grade cellist at Presidential Park, had not played two strings at once before seeing the concert music, but she has grown more proficient with it through preparing for this event. Lia Acevedo Rodriguez, has also gained confidence.
“I feel like I’m improving in everything, and learning a lot of new stuff. I love it,” Lia says.
Trombonist Bella Francis and clarinetist Nathan Garnere, both seventh-graders, are playing music in a time signature they had not seen before, with higher notes, and complex rhythms.
“They’re challenging for us now,” Bella says, “But it’s getting us ready for pieces that we’ll have in higher grades.”
Our scholars are excited to play with people outside of their school for the first time, like fifth-grader George Gonzalez, who plays the flute at Presidential Park and calls it “the first special concert I’ve had.” Middletown High School Junior and saxophonist, Brandon Woody, will be joining him in the band.
“We are more than excited to play with them, and we will put on the best show we can,” Brandon says. Brandon hopes his fellow bandmates will inspire the younger musicians, but also believes the younger musicians will inspire them. Stephan Yupa agrees. Stephan is a senior who will perform in the band a
nd chorus concerts. He thinks the concerts are a great opportunity to form connections with the younger musicians and teach them about high school level music.
Some scholars will get the rare chance to perform alongside their family members. Danielle Lichtenstein, a Maple Hill fourth-grader, is excited to be singing in the chorus with her cousin Addison Strenfel, a sixth-grader from Monhagen Middle School. Also in Monhagen is sixth-grader Saoirse McElroy, sister of senior Samantha McElroy. They will play together in the orchestra.
The all-district concerts are believed to be the first time Middletown has pulled representation from each building to perform together in one concert, according to Mrs. Amanda Mita, the Music Department Chair and the seventh- and eighth-grade orchestra director at Twin Towers Middle School.
“This idea came from a lot of conversations that we had as a music department,” She says.
Due to limited stage space, each concert group was limited to 100 performers. Elementary and middle school teachers selected scholars. The high school performers came from audition-based groups: Chamber Singers, Chamber Orchestra, and Wind Ensemble.
The concerts will be in a “playdown” style where the performance starts with a performance from the high school groups, who will then be joined by the middle school musicians, and the performance culminating with the addition of the elementary school musicians. This allows the younger scholars to hear what they will be able to accomplish in the future.
This year’s all-district concerts are the first series in what will be a new tradition in the Enlarged City School District of Middletown. As the stage filled with musicians of all ages for the first time to rehearse for the upcoming concerts, scholars and their teachers are reminded of the journey music has provided them.
Samantha McElroy is about to graduate high school, and one of the lessons she’s learned is that “...music can really be a lifeline. It can open the door to so many opportunities that you wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Stephen Yupa believes the all-district concert “... serves as a reminder to the parents that this is why your students should be continuing music…”
Brandon Woody is hoping that this experience “...inspires (the younger musicians) to push and practice more to become better than us.”
And the department head who has been eagerly planning this occasion, Mrs. Amanda Mita, felt the energy and excitement of all the scholars gathered on stage. “There's something special about bringing groups of musicians together who have never created together…” Mita says.
Special thanks to the following students whose interviews helped inform this article:
Lia Acevedo Rodriguez, Mawusi Awoonor, Shailyn Capellan, Juliana Destime, Bella Francis, Nathan Garnere, George Gonzalez, Alan Guevara Hernandez, John Hopper, Danielle Lichtenstein, Zichi Lou, Samantha McElroy, Nayelie Pierre, Maya Robinson, Symirah Ross, Ella Wardell, Brandon Woody, and Stephan Yupa.