Band Students Perform at Outdoor Concert

Coordinating multiple concerts for a variety of band students at different skill levels is challenging even during a “regular” school year, but throw in a raft of pandemic restrictions and the task becomes gargantuan. Thankfully, Band Directors Becky Long and Josh Baumgartner were up to the task.

The creative music teachers collaborated with the other MICDS performing arts educators to plan an outdoor “festival” spanning several days. From ticket coordination to rehearsals and guest logistics, these teachers took on an amazing amount of work in addition to helping our students prepare for their first live performance in over a year.

Weather concerns moved the concert from last week to this week, and the band program took advantage of a large tent erected behind Olson Hall for other events to ensure the concert would go on, rain or shine. Parents brought blankets and lawn chairs, spreading out under the open-air tent and beyond (since there was no rain) to enjoy a live, outdoor concert.

The program kicked off with the 6th and 7th grade beginning band at 4:15 p.m. They played four pieces: Duet of the Crusaders, Pieces of Eight, Pass and Review March, and Quintessence.

The 8th grade band took the “stage” at 5:30 p.m., performing Hercules vs. the Hydra and Rites of Tamburo.

The Upper School band rounded out the concert, beginning at 6 p.m. and playing Critical Mass, On the Wings of Swallows, Blue Ridge Peel (featuring Mr. Baumgartner as the washboard soloist!), and The Darkend Woods.

Three students worked together to learn a special piece to compete in the MSHSAA State Music Competition. Nina Hamilton ’22 (flute), Eric Ji ’21 (clarinet), and Patrick O’Brien ’21 (alto sax) overcame the challenges posed by a hybrid schedule at the beginning of the year to practice together and earn gold medals.

The Upper School band capped this amazing experience with a rousing rendition of Pep Band favorites, as selected by the Class of 2021. Guests enjoyed exhilarating versions of Hey! Baby!, a Michael Jackson hit mix, Land of 1000 Dances, and of course the MICDS Rally Song.

How did the students do? They were outstanding! Baumgartner said, “I am so proud of our students, and they should be proud of themselves too! They have worked hard to overcome all of the obstacles they have faced over the past year and a half, and they showcased that on Monday night. They did such a great job!”

Baumgartner and Long recognized students for their hard work and dedication to learning music, especially in strange times of flute pods, washable bell covers, and special masks. They also honored those students who competed throughout the year.

Baumgartner said, “These students always impress me! They are always prepared for our rehearsals and have a great attitude and work ethic. They go above and beyond, learning new songs on their own, and pushing themselves to always grow as musicians. Keep up your amazing work!”

Long recognized two seniors with special awards.

Eric Ji ’21 won the John Philip Sousa Award, which is the pinnacle of achievement in a high school band. Introduced in 1955 to honor the top student in the high school band, the John Philip Sousa Band Award® recognizes superior musicianship and outstanding dedication. It was created with the approval of Helen Sousa Albert and Priscilla Sousa, daughters of the famous composer and bandmaster. This award is special to Long as she won it herself as a high school band student.

Patrick O’Brien ’21 won the James Andrew Benecke Band Award, which is presented in memory of James Andrew Benecke ’06 to an Upper School Concert Band Student who consistently demonstrates a commitment for improvement, passion for performance, and dedication to the instrumental music program at MICDS. This musician elevates all members of the band by continually displaying “the right stuff.”

Check out the program to see the complete list of awards and honors.

“Monday’s concert was a true celebration moment for our students,” said Long. “After spending the last 16+ months rehearsing, they were finally able to feel what it was like to do what we do…perform! I could not be more proud of their efforts and achievements. Bravo!”