Where could you find a euphonium, a marimba, and a contrabass clarinet?
You could hear them at the Nanuet High School Prism Concert last Wednesday night. These were just a few of the instruments played by students at the concert, which was also unique in its format. Unlike regular concerts, with pauses after each number, the prism concert features continuous playing as one song leads right into the next. The format also includes numbers featuring individual soloists and ensembles, along with numbers featuring the entire concert band.
“This type of concert gets to show the audience instruments that they might not have ever seen before, like marimba,” said Allison Hoisl, one of the senior soloists at the concert. “People probably don’t even know what it is. So it’s interesting to break down the band into something that you wouldn’t originally hear because everything just blends usually.”
The concert is called a prism concert to compare the format to a prism, which breaks light rays up into their various colors. Similarly, the concert breaks up the concert band into its different parts and allows each section of the band to shine.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for all of the kids to have a chance to do something different and for our parents too to see the different talents throughout the band,” Band Director Mark Skaba said of the prism concert's format. “Sometimes it’s easy for kids to get lost inside the band, but this splits it up into something a little different.”
The parents who attended the concertn enjoyed this unique format, such as Constance Hoisl, whose daughter Allison was a flute soloist.
“I like that it shows a lot of different aspects of what they do here and the different talents and the different aspects of music,” she said.
The groups featured were the brass choir, a flute quintet, percussionists, a saxophone choir, a clarinet quartet and the jazz band.
Because each song flows right into the next, students often had to get up towards the beginning or ending of one number and find their places for the next number. Students who were in the group featured in the next number had to come to the front of the stage or to risers or the chairs in front of the stage, while the previous song was still playing. Then once their song was over they would head through the side door and backstage to rejoin their fellow bandmates for the numbers featuring the entire concert band.
“It’s a tremendous amount of planning, from picking the pieces that we play to placing them in order and getting the students basically choreographed to know where to go and when,” Skaba said.
Skaba said the students have been working on the music for the concert all year and the staging of it over the past two or three weeks. However Miller noted that many of the students are in the Drama Club or were involved in the school’s first prism concert two years ago, which made rehearsing the movement portions of this year’s concert easier.
The set list for the concert included 13 songs from different styles and textures, from a jazz staple like “I Can’t Get Started With You,” to a more folksy song like “Shenandoah.” Miller noted that the prism format made the song selection more complicated. Since each song leads into the next, a song must start in the same key that the previous song ended in. Thus sometimes he had the band begin a song with a percussion solo to help ease this transition.
The members of the band who were chosen for the small groups and solos were mostly juniors and seniors, according to the band directors. The three soloists—Amanda Lowery on the marimba (a percussion instrument), Hoisl on the flute and Kevin Quill on the trumpet—were seniors who were also selected to All-State in the past year. Each of the soloists got to pick the piece he or she played at the concert, and they either picked the songs they played at their All-State solos or songs they are using for college auditions.
Quill has been playing his trumpet since the fourth grade. Hoisl originally started out playing the violin when she was in second grade, but when around age 11, she attended a showcase where the older students played their instruments for the younger ones. The band was also at this event, and one girl was playing her flute. Hoisl fell in love with the sound of the instrument and soon began it as well. Soon she enjoyed it so much that when forced to pick between the two instruments, she ultimately chose the flute.
For the senior soloists it was probably their last time performing with their fellow students, some of whom they have known since kindergarten. But for Hoisl this concert was a great way to bring her high school music career to a close.
“It was a good way to end.”