The auditorium at Nanuet Senior HS was filled with the sounds of the season on Thursday night as A. MacArthur Barr MS seventh and eighth graders played a wide variety of festive music. The chamber orchestra, concert choir, orchestra, chorus and band all participated in the event.
The chamber orchestra opened the show under the direction of Katherine Rife, followed by the concert choir which offered a spirited version of We Wish You a Swingin’ Holiday. Alex Fung then directed the orchestra in a selection of pieces by Franz Joseph Haydn, Alexander Borodin and a trilogy by contemporary film score composer John Williams.
“It’s got themes from Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark. The kids are very psyched about that, I’m very psyched too.” said Fung. This marks Fung’s third year with the district, but the first time he has participated in the winter concert. He started his career with the fifth grade orchestra and branched off into teaching the rehearsal portion of the seventh and eighth grade orchestra.
“We hope to provide them with the opportunity to produce music first and foremost, and to understand that music-making is as human as it gets as an art form … and to have a good time.” added Fung.
Teaching and directing the middle school students is clearly rewarding by its own right, but there is also a larger goal, as Nanuet’s Director of Music Dr. Jack Gremli pointed out.
“One of the many wonderful things about the district is its size and the fact that music teachers loop with the students, meaning we stay with the students throughout their whole musical career.” Gremli explained. “So basically what we do is put them in the right track in the middle school, and then hand them over to me in the high school.”
Gremli also likened the process to the way a sports program is structured.
“So we have a great feeder program; the JV is very strong and when they become varsity players over here they’re just ready to go. We as a staff unanimously feel that that’s the number one factor that has made us so successful.”
The evening’s program continued as the chorus offered selections from the musical Godspell, and a cover of Billy Joel’s River of Dreams sung by music teacher Michael Minard. The concert was rounded out with a performance by the band under the direction of Mark Skaba, who echoed the importance of continuity in the student’s transition from middle school to high school.
“I think its pretty valuable for kids to have someone in the high school when they get there, which can be a tricky transition for teenagers. A familiar face is helpful. Musically too, they pretty much know what they’re getting into by the time they get to high school with us, so there are very few surprises.” said Skaba.