The PUSD Music program is in the throes of their busy concert season.
The festivities began a week before Thanksgiving with a concert at Beach Elementary Auditorium showcasing the PHS Jazz Band class, Jazz Lab Band, and the student run PHS Jazz Combo. Music by jazz greats such as Freddie Hubbard, Nat Adderly, and Sonny Rollins highlighted the program, and many of the students were featured soloists.
The next day, after a very short night of sleep, the PHS Pep Band made an early morning appearance on NBC TV to help kick off the Alameda County Food Bank’s holiday food drive. Thirty five hearty Pep Band members woke up at 3:00 a.m. on Friday, November 21st and traveled to the Safeway in Pleasanton for a series of energetic TV broadcasts, beginning at 5:30 a.m. Dr. Andria Mullan, Director of PMS and PHS Bands, remarked that “the kids love this opportunity to perform, in spite of the wake up time, because they get to be on TV and at the same time help support a wonderful cause”. The Band was back in Piedmont well before the beginning of their first class. And if that wasn’t enough excitement for one day, as soon as Dr. Mullan returned to Piedmont from the Pep Band gig, she immediately changed gears and took her PHS Jazz Bands back to Beach School for an all school assembly. Dr. Mullan said, “Performing in a smaller space really gives the event a more intimate feel because the audience can see the musicians better. And there is the added benefit of being able to easily share our program with the elementary students the next day. The younger students are so excited to see the program.”
However, the concert season really went into full swing the week of December 8th, beginning with a concert featuring the PHS and PMS Orchestras, directed by Catherine DeVos. The highlight of this concert was Archangelo Corelli’s “Christmas Concerto”, one of the most popular and highly recognizable orchestral pieces of the Baroque age, featuring a select group of orchestra students in a concertato setting, accompanied by the PHS Orchestra. As Ms. DeVos stated, “I have been wanting to do this piece for many years and this year’s group really rose to the occasion.” The two PMS Orchestras presented arrangements of magnificent pieces written by Mozart, Haydn, and Holst.
One day later, the Piedmont High School Bands took the stage, with an appearance by the Jazz Band and the Symphonic Band. Music by the great band composer John Philip Sousa was on the program, as well as well-known jazz standards, including Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage and Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me. In previous years the PHS Jazz Band has only been offered as a 2nd semester class, but due to its enormous popularity, beginning this fall, it became a yearlong course.
And the final instrumental concert of the week featured the PMS Bands, under the direction of Dr. Mullan and Ms. Anne Violanti. Ms. Violanti, originally from the Buffalo, NY area, is new to the Piedmont PMS and Elementary music faculty this Fall, but she brings 25 years of public middle school band teaching experience to our school district. Due to the strong district wide 5th grade instrumental music program, the PMS Band program has expanded this year and includes five different Bands; three 6th grade bands, one 7th grade band, and an 8th grade band.
On Wednesday, December 17th, the culminating secondary winter performance of the season takes place at the spectacular Cathedral of Christ the Light on Lake Merritt, when the PHS Acappella Choir presents their popular Winter Concert. The 120 member choir will perform a variety of choral music for the holiday season; including works by Zoltan Kodaly and Moses Hogan, as well as traditional carols. The PMS Rockappella Choir will join the high school students on this concert.
And every single elementary school student will sing their hearts out at the Elementary Winter Concerts this week. Elementary Choral Music teacher, Adrian Behrendt, prepares all class levels for these wonderful performances. Additionally, the 5th grade instrumental students enthusiastically perform one to three very short pieces on their newly chosen brass, string, or woodwind instruments. The elementary school auditoriums are filled to capacity with standing room only crowds, and the students are dressed up in their holiday best.
As Dr. Rosie Newhall, pediatrician and parent of two former Beach students, now grown, remarked “No matter how busy I was at work, I would never miss these concerts! They were my favorite concerts of the year.” For Piedmont elementary school parents these concerts are “not to be missed”.