After a busy fall and holiday season of performances, the AHS Performing Arts students moved into 2023 with a full calendar of activities and events. February vacation was a very special time for the Honors Orchestra, Jazz Band, and Madrigal Singers as they visited northern Italy and Lugano, Switzerland, meeting local students, seeing the sights, and performing. After arriving in Milan, the young people were able to do some touring before delivering their first concert at the Chiesa Parrocchiale di San Giovanni Evangelista. After a visit to Lake Maggiore, the group returned to Varese to prepare and deliver an evening concert at the Teatro Santuccio.
The next day was spent at the Liceo Musicale G.B. Grassi where the AHS vocalists and musicians met the high school students and then performed with them. The following trip to Switzerland was similar in that they met with the students from the Lugano Conservatory and delivered a collaborative concert.
Instrumental Director Sabatino D’Agostino reports that the students “...had a blast during the whole trip.” He particularly enjoyed seeing his students working and performing with the Italian and Swiss students, and he describes the experiences as having “...no language barriers: just music, fun, and smiles.” Choral Director Mara Walker adds that “...it was wonderful to see the instrumental students and those from the choral ensembles performing together and connecting with one another.” A personal thrill for Mr. D”Agostino was seeing and hearing the Madrigal Singers give a brief performance in the lobby of the La Scala Opera House in Milan, the oldest opera house in the world. Ms. Walker agrees and says that “...being able to conduct Madrigal Singers in La Scala was one of the most memorable and exciting parts of the trip.”
Just prior to their trip, the AHS Jazz Band collaborated with the Jazz Composers Alliance (JCA), an orchestra dedicated to supporting, developing, and promoting the art of jazz composition, in a free concert open to the community. After playing numbers written by composers that included Dave Brubeck and Chick Corea, the Jazz Band joined the JCA on an original composition by orchestra member and Arlington parent, Mimi Rabson. The JCA went on to complete the program with six additional compositions by group members. This was an amazing opportunity for the AHS students to work with and hear from local composers. Mr. D’Agostino reports that they loved the challenge of playing with such talented professionals and being exposed to different repertoire and instrumentation.
Shortly after the trip, the Madrigal Singers took part in the Massachusetts Music Educators Association (MMEA) Contemporary Creators Concert. The group had submitted three recorded pieces into the blind judging process, and was selected as one of the three ensembles that performed. The Festival included the opportunity for the students to participate in a composition clinic and a Composers Forum led by Massachusetts collegiate music professors. Here the students learned a bit about counterpoint in composition and were able to listen-in on a forum of student composers presenting their compositions for open feedback.
Ms. Walker says that having the group chosen was a “...true honor…” and a “...highlight of my tenure …” She goes on to report that “The students showed such diligence in preparation for the performance. They came together with a sense of pride and community as they worked to make the most of the opportunity to showcase their music for music educators across the state.”
This event was immediately followed by the MMEA All-State Festival, which included 13 AHS choral students and one string bass player. The young people from across the state who take part in this Festival are chosen through an audition process that involves students who have been recommended to continue after being accepted into district festivals. They come together in Boston and work in ensembles toward a final concert in the Boston Symphony Hall. This year’s concert was unfortunately canceled due to weather, (may be rescheduled), but the students had a wonderful time rehearsing together and then performing for each other before returning home.
The Music Technology students have been busy in 2023 as well, delivering two concerts–Sonic Voyages in January and a presentation of original student compositions in March that included guest performances by members of the AHS Honors Orchestra. These concerts showcase the diversity of musical backgrounds and interests of the students who take part in the Music Technology program headed by John DiTomaso, and include both recorded and live performances of what they have been working on during the school year. Videos may include people delivering the works or flowing colors and shapes that accent the music. Whether the pieces are original or covers, all the performances are unique in their use of technology and the imaginations of the creators.
The rigorous schedule of activities and performances will continue into the spring for all AHS performing artists. Events coming up include the All-Town Concerts, the AHS spring musical production of “Into the Woods” by Steven Sondheim, the Pops Concert, and much more.