A Band Concert of Many Layers

When 6:30 rolled around on a rainy Thursday afternoon, students, parents, and teachers eagerly waited in the Robert B. Gaw hall. Anticipation buzzed here and there, along corridors and between seats. The Band students were performing.

Tanmay ‘20 was excited and also sort of nervous for this concert. “I am going to be conducting one of the songs,” Tanmay explains. “I’ve been playing since 5th grade, so the playing part I’ve got it down pretty well,” it will be his first experience with conducting.

All together, ISKL’s IASAS Band, Jazz Ensemble, Wind Ensemble, and Symphonic Band played 9 pieces, with the 8th grade senior band joining in at the finale.

Dr. Fonder is the first musical guest artist ISKL has welcomed, and why this concert is separate from the Strings and Choir groups. Mr. Miles explains that, “we wanted to celebrate his presence being here, and showcase the work he’s been doing with our students.”

The arrival of Dr Fonder was planned almost 8 months ago. “Mr. Miles would send me, on occasions, videos of the band performing, videos of Tanmay conducting, and we would talk back and forth to try to get on the same page as far as where things should go and where they are now.”

In many of the pieces, Mr. Miles and Dr. Fonder were able to participate in the playing, which added more flare when both played their respective instruments alongside their students.

Dr. Fonders has graciously given his name and his time to have the Mark Fonder Young Conductors Award at ISKL this year. Tanmay was the grateful recipient during the concert. “He’s conducting Meadowlands, and he’s rehearsed it and prepared it all on his lonesome, which has been fantastic and quite the learning experience for both him and me,” Mr. Miles expresses.

Throughout the concert there was a flavourful contrast in the choice of songs, especially in some songs themselves. Besides the many different genres explored by the bands, such as jazz and pop, the song Unraveling by Andrew Boysen Jr. stands out with the dynamic contrast it provided.

The IASAS Band 2017 opened the concert by playing their piece Wind Serenade op. 44 Mvts 1 & 4 by Anton Dvorak, with practiced finesse and charm.

After the first 2 songs, the Wind Ensemble hit us with Tico Tico by Zequinha de Abreu, arranged by David Marlatt, and Cold Water by Major Lazer ft. Justin Bieber and Mo, arranged by ISKL student Cevin van der Vliet.

This was a surprising piece, the band prepared it over the span of 2 rehearsals. Mr. Miles notes that, “it’s in a pretty ‘band-unfriendly’ key, even for string players. There are a lot of sharps in here for string players, so it’ll be nice and challenging for us.”

Following, the Wind Ensemble, the Symphonic Band and Jazz Ensemble collaborated and played Almo by Karl L. King and arranged by James Swearingen, Unraveling by Andrew Boysen Jr., Meadowlands by James MacBeth, conducted by ISKL student Tanmay.

Next in line was Chester Overture for Band by William Schuman, conducted by guest artist Dr. Mark Fonder. Before starting the piece, Dr. Fonder shares wise words about life and music, how they are related in more ways than we can imagine and how they work hand in hand when choosing a path.

Mr. Miles and Dr. Fonder decided to take on a unique method for this piece in the form of an informance. “It became evident that that was the most effective way to perform that piece. I’d only had a short period of time where I could work on this level 5 sort of piece with the entire ensemble, and it is a really intricate and demanding piece, not only for the player, but also for the listener.”

By ‘fleshing’ out the piece little by little, “as opposed to just force-feeding everybody. This allowed for a little bit closer examination and I hope that some ears will open up a little bit, and I hope that they will hear something a little more different from the norm.”

Mr. Miles adds that for the informance, “we’re going to play a section of it then Dr. Fonder is going to speak about what you should be listening for in that section, and then we’re going to play another section, and Dr. Fonder will be explaining what you should be listening for here. What we’re trying to gain from this is that even in a concert, you can still learn. We’re going to be informing the parents to become more educated listeners.”

Finally, the last song rolls around with the senior 8th grade band. They played The Machine Awakes by Steven Bryant, an electroacoustic piece that gave the concert a unique edge.

According to Tanmay, the song “is definitely a much easier piece to play, but it’s still challenging, because since we have a backing track, we have to be on point with it, but it’s a backing track that’s going to make it really cool. I think it’s definitely going to sign out because it’s our last piece and it has a really cool modern vibe to it, that I think everyone can get into.”

These songs and pieces created a masterpiece, but it was more than that. “Before, in all the other concerts we’ve had, we got the music and had no choice but to learn it and do exactly what the teacher said, right? But in this concert, we were given a few pieces to choose from and we decided to choose the songs you will hear today,” as Tanmay puts it.

“Music as an art is becoming more prominent now. In fact, quite a few people out on the deck right now are actually waiting to come to the concert, which to be honest, hasn’t happened much before,” Tanmay finishes.