Albany Music Fund E-Newsletter- January 2010


Calendar of Events: January – February 2010

Tuesday, January 19: Albany Middle School Jazz Combo at Albany School Board Meeting, 7:45 p.m. – 7:55 p.m. Albany Community Center. FREE!
Fri.– Sat., January 22-25: Albany High School Wind Ensemble Retreat, Westminster Woods.
Saturday, January 30: Albany High School Jazz Band and Jazz Combo at Folsom Jazz Festival. FREE!
Saturday, February 6: Albany High School Jazz Band, Jazz Lab and combos at CMEA Jazz Festivals. School of the Arts, San Francisco. FREE!
Monday, February 8: Albany High School Jazz Band, Albany High School Jazz Band Combo and Rhythm Bound at Freight & Salvage.
Monday, February 27: Men With Soul, Vocal Flight, Albany Middle School Jazz Band, Albany High School Jazz Band and Albany High School Jazz Band Combo perform for Albany Rotary Club: “What It’s Worth? An Antiques Appraisal Faire”, Albany Middle School Gym, 2-6.

Outreach Report: Albany Senior Center Concerts

Mary Low, vocal music instructor for Albany Middle School and Albany High School, has been bringing the sweet sounds of our students’ voices to the nearby Albany Senior Center. In November and December, Albany Middle School’s Chamber Choir and Albany High School’s premiere all-male a cappella group, Men With Soul, visited the Senior Center to present short, pre-holiday concerts. Your newsletter editor was there, and here’s what she saw:

The AMS Chamber Choir consists of 15 young ladies and 1 young man. Neatly attired in concert black and white, the singers presented themselves most professionally, attentive and responsive to their conductor. As the choir sang selections including a setting of Frost’s poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening and Mary Lynn Lightfoot’s Pie Jesu (written for the children who died in the Oklahoma City bombing), I looked around the room and saw more than a few attendees wiping away a tear. “There’s nothing like the sound of children’s voices singing,” said an attendee. “It gets me every time.” Ending the concert with a rousing spiritual, Let Me Fly, had the concert attendees tapping their feet and smiling with delight. “Come back anytime!” was the chorus as the students left for the Thanksgiving holiday break.

At the December holiday dinner, the atmosphere was warm and festive with red Santa hats and lots of sequins. The dapperly-dressed young men of Men with Soul captured the audience’s hearts with their very first selection, Stand By Me. Nods of recognition as the familiar tune came alive culminated in “Bravo!” at the song’s end. Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl had the meal servers dancing as they delivered plates of cream puffs to the tables. The audience wanted more than the five numbers the group had prepared, so Men with Soul offered the carol Angels We Have Heard On High to start the scheduled sing- a-long. Speaking with attendees after, I heard: “They’re so good- these young men should be on a TV show!”, “I loved the choreography” and “It’s great to hear young people singing doo-wop”.

Albany’s young musicians have so much to offer, as you know if you’ve attended any Albany school music concert. It’s terrific to see them bringing the music into the community, to those who might not otherwise hear them. Watch for future outreach performances from our talented students!

CMEA Festivals – What Are They All About?

Craig Bryant, AHS Instrumental Music

What is CMEA?
CMEA is the California Association for Music Educators. This is a state-wide organization which represents all facets of music education at all levels, elementary school through college. They hold regional and state-wide professional development conferences for teachers and, more importantly, they host performance festivals that nearly all of the AMS and AHS ensembles attend each year.

What’s a festival?
A “festival”, as it’s called, can be better described as an evaluation or contest. Each festival site hosts 30+ schools over the course of a weekend, where ensembles are judged by a panel of professional, high-level music educators. Our students perform prepared pieces, then sight read music. They receive a rating and comments from the judges, which we review in class. Students also benefit from seeing other area schools perform. Festivals are “non-competitive” in that schools will not be ranked against each other; however, everyone’s results are posted on a large board for all to see.

How is the rating determined?
A panel of three judges listens to and grades each group independently during the performance based on categories such as sound quality, technique and musicality. There are high standards for students at these events. Part of the score is also determined by sight reading (students performing music they have never seen before) – this is as stressful as it gets!

Should parents go?
YES! A festival performance is a very exciting time for our students. We encourage parents to attend as supportive audience members (if you’d like, we can always use your help as a chaperone). You’ll also see other schools from around the Bay Area – it’s a great learning experience for students and parents alike. I always leave with a sense of appreciation and pride for our Albany students.

What are the dates?
Feb. 6th: Jazz Festival (for AHS students only) at SF School of the Arts.
May 1st: Band and Orchestra Festival at Pleasanton MS.
May 1st: Choir Festival at Acalanes HS.

We hope to see you there!

AMF Interview: Alia McKean, AHS 2010, Chamber Music Club President

Q: Tell us a little about your musical background. What inspired you to pick up your first musical instrument? What instruments have you played, and what’s your primary instrument now? What groups do you currently play with?

A: I officially started playing the violin just before I turned six. I apparently listened to Beethoven violin sonatas when I was still in the womb, so maybe that had something to do with it. My mom used to be a concert pianist, and I grew up in a rich musical environment. Over the years, I’ve also learned piano, flute, and viola, though I had a brief fling with the clarinet. Currently, I’m in the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra and the Mozart Youth Camerata, and I play in a quartet at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. For fun, I also play in a string quartet with some of my old friends. My weekends are utterly consumed by music, and I love it.

Q: How did the AHS Chamber Music Club come to be?

A: The club was already in existence when I came to Albany High, and I believe it was founded in 2001. It was originally created to keep the passion for music alive in the community, and to encourage musicians to have fun playing music in groups. It also provides a great opportunity to learn more about music from fellow students. Chamber music is an integral part of musical education because musicians learn how to play leading and supporting roles, work as a team, and communicate through music.

Q: What part of the AUSD music program has been most fulfilling for you? What part of the program do you think is most important overall?

A: I enjoy working with my peers. It’s really rewarding working towards a common goal and having fun playing music together. I think it is extremely important to learn how to work as a team, and the classroom environment is very supportive and encouraging. There are so many students who are involved in music in the schools, and the level of dedication and focus is impressive.

Q: If a Mysterious Benefactor (as in Dickens’ Great Expectations) were to give a nice large sum of money to the Albany Music Fund, what would be your dream of how best to use it?

A: I would probably use it to support the String Orchestra. The high school orchestra is steadily growing and improving, but younger string players in the middle school and elementary schools don’t exactly have the same opportunities as those who play in band. It’s important for musicians to start playing their string instruments at a young age, when they can develop their skills quickly.

Q: What’s your current favorite piece(s) of music (in any genre- feel free to name more than one)?

A: I have far too many favorites! As far as classical music goes, my all-time favorites include Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz, Piano Quartet in G Minor by Brahms, Enigma Variations by Elgar, Franck’s Sonata for Violin and Piano, Poulenc’s Violin Sonata, Ravel’s Piano Concerto in D, IO by Saarahio, Schnittke’s Concerto Grosso, Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No.1, and Sibelius’ Violin Concerto. The list goes on and on. At the moment, though, I am a bit obsessed with Steve Reich’s work. He incorporates canonic rhythmic patterns in his phasing pieces; it’s all really fascinating. I recommend his percussion works, in particular.


Two events for your calendar!

AHS Jazz Band and Rhythm Bound, Monday, February 8

Albany High School’s Jazz Band, Jazz Band Combo and Rhythm Bound perform for the first time at the newly refurbished Freight and Salvage at 2020 Addison St., between Shattuck and Milvia in downtown Berkeley. This annual fundraiser for the Albany Music Fund supports music education in the Albany public schools, from elementary to high school. Jazz Band and Rhythm Bound have performed at Yoshi’s and received critical acclaim at music competitions statewide. Here’s your chance to hear them in a professional setting, close to home. There’s only one show at 8 p.m., and it’s going to be great! Get your tickets early- they will go fast, with only 440 seats in the house.

The concert is Monday, February 08, 8:00 pm (doors open at 7:00 pm), and costs $18.50 in advance, and $19.50 at the door.
To purchase tickets online, go to the Freight and Salvage Website. Tickets are also available from any AHS band member.

Swing Into Spring Big Band Dance, Friday, March 12

Bring your dancing shoes to this elegant event at Berkeley’s Gaia Center. Featuring both instrumental and vocal jazz of the Big Band era, our AMS and AHS musicians will dazzle you and set your feet tapping. Don’t miss this first-ever event at a very special venue.

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