An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Minoo J. '24

It is 5:50 p.m. and already dark out. The livestream cameras are in position, the stage has been set; awaiting their turn in the spotlight, performers sit in the front rows of the auditorium in concert attire. Outside, the soon-to-be audience members park their cars and hurry over to St. Nick’s, doing their best to escape the light evening drizzle. They file in, and soon the seats are full. As the lights dim, a hush falls on the crowd — yet even now a certain silent excitement buzzes through the air. The baton goes up, and the first group of musicians raise their instruments. Finally, triumphantly, long anticipated and long postponed, the music begins to play.

Jazz and concert band, choir, and orchestra all held events during the week of Dec. 6 this past month, and each one was a resounding success. These performances were gratifying not just because of the hard work that went into them, but also due to the prolonged absence of Lakeside music programs on campus. Their return from pandemic hiatus was a little dose of normal in the most abnormal of circumstances.

Of course, not everything was the same. Musicians all wore masks — black, mostly, to match with the concert outfit — and the auditorium remained at half capacity. Band members used bell covers during performance, and a large livestream rig at the center of the hall reduced available seating.

Though the general look and feel of a concert was still limited by COVID-19, music directors were unafraid to experiment with instrumentation and try out different ensembles. At the joint band performance on Monday, Dec. 6, Dr. Ekpo and Mr. Patterson brought jazz and concert band together on stage to perform A Little Tango Music. Earlier that night, concert band accompanied members Ethan D. ’22 (clarinet) and Minoo J. ’24 (oboe) in a magical duet arrangement of Autumn Soliloquy. Two days later, Minoo and Emi T. ’22 (bassoon) joined a Lakeside alum and the Upper School string orchestra to perform the first movement of Mozart’s Symphony No. 26.

These new types of groups required new rehearsal strategies. For example, jazz band and concert band met during activity period on several occasions to work out dynamics and tempo for Tango, as the two programs did not occur during the same class period. Winds and orchestra, meanwhile, practiced from 12:15 to 12:45 after the typical class period had already ended. Orchestra directors Mr. Krus and Ms. Johansen also had to coordinate dates with French horn players, who were arriving from off-campus.

Ultimately, all the schedule-wrangling seems to have worked. Choir, which opened seats up to students as well as performers’ families, had 120 livestream viewers. Jazz and concert band pulled 300 virtual audience members, while nearly 400 people tuned in for Lakeside’s orchestras. Responses to the December performances were overwhelmingly positive, and students flooded their musical friends with support as they watched from home.

In the many hours of rehearsal leading up to the concerts, participating in these new ensembles was a consistent bright spot. Every meeting for Mozart or Tango, I found, was a fun and motivational experience. Different instrument arrangements also allowed individual musicians to showcase their skill, making for some standout performances on stage. I particularly enjoyed the string quartets of the Upper School orchestra at the Dec. 8 concert, and Liz C. ’24’s excellent alto saxophone solo in Isfahan with the jazz band.

Yet the concerts’ success was more than just the work of a few soloists or groups. Across the board, these events were celebratory in spirit, a grand homecoming for the school’s music programs with moments both exhilarating and memorable. We asked, and they delivered. The hills are alive again, and I can’t wait to hear more from Lakeside’s ensembles.