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The Honor Band plays on at Hart High School

Posted: March 11, 2009 1:12 a.m.
Updated: March 11, 2009 4:55 a.m.

During the school year, I wake myself mentally in two ways: reading the newspaper and playing music in my high school jazz and concert bands. The latter lets me artistically express myself, which gives me joy. The former keeps me informed, which - in recent months - has been giving me headaches.

Several days ago, I was confronted with a particularly depressing headline: "Jobless spiral may define generation."
It is appropriate then, that as the news has become more frantic and alarming, so has my band schedule - in addition to a myriad band events (basketball games, jazz performances, festivals, concerts and spring tour) last Saturday I performed with the Hart District Honor Band.

I'm a senior, and this is my third year participating in the Honor Band, which is an "all-star" band of sorts, formed by the auditioning of local junior and high school band students. Every year we rehearse three times with music picked by a guest conductor, and then perform on a Saturday in early March.

It's an educational experience throughout, beginning with the initial audition, which lets students practice a skill, and continues to the frinal audition itself which is just as important to modern musicians as practicing, composing or even performing.

The students who make the band are given an opportunity to rehearse with other talented musicians, which in and of itself can be an inspiration to play well. They practice once with the district directors and twice with the guest conductor; it all culminates with a concert that represents the collective musical prowess of the school district's band programs.

It was a night of beautiful music, from the traditional Sousa ("The High School Cadets") to Michael Markowski's powerful and award-winning "Shadow Rituals."

The junior high guest conductor, Mr. Dan Bochard, quoted composer Robert W. Smith as saying that his piece, "Declaration in Blue," was written as a patriotic celebration of "our country's most precious natural resource: our children." His statement was proven true repeatedly throughout the evening.

I turned 18 last November, so I'm supposed to have some newfound adult perspective on children and teenagers - my band director insists I must, anyway.

However, I think anyone could find redemptive power in hearing a group of students perform music with this much joy and reverence. These are students who entered school and chose band, not because it was required - there are many ways to earn fine arts credit - and certainly not because it was easy - at its busiest, it easily consumes eighty hours a month; no, they're in it for the music.

"Fear and pessimism are ruling," read the the newspaper article. But despite the apparent doom, foreclosures and budget cuts in schools and extracurriculars, life is continuing.

On that night in the Hart High School Auditorium, under the glow of spotlights and the warm eyes of parents and friends, a group of students set the air ablaze with the transcendent joy of music.

Joseph Taylor is a senior at Saugus High School.


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