When the Lincoln Academy Wind Ensemble traveled to New York City in early April, they saw the sights, listened to the house band show at Birdland, and watched Matilda on Broadway.
They also performed as part of the WorldStrides Heritage Festival at Riverside Church on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The Festival offers musical groups from around the nation the opportunity to play in front of professional musicians and music educators, who rate musical performances on five criteria: tone, intonation, technique, balance, and interpretation. Based on these scores, bands are rated into five levels. The LA Wind Ensemble received a Gold, or Superior rating, scoring above 90 on a 100 point scale.
“The most memorable performances are when we reach new levels; new places musically as a group, that are higher than the sum of our individual talents,” said Lincoln Academy Band Teacher Liz Matta. “The students were focused and ready. They didn’t let the nervous excitement of the moment impact how they performed. After hearing a performance and mini-clinic of another high school band that morning, we set the goal to not receive the same suggestions during our mini-clinic; specifically having to do with articulation and dynamics. We achieved that goal and, as a result, played better than we ever have. They gave a fantastic performance, and the judges took note.”
Carl Strommen was one of the adjudicators who rated the LA Band performance. Strommen is a professional composer who conducted Lincoln Academy’s “mini clinic” at the Heritage Festival. “It was particularly exciting to work with Mr. Strommen,” said Ms. Matta. “His compositions are well-known in the world of band music, and we play at least one of his compositions and arrangements every year.”
Strommen rated the LA band’s performance with high scores in every category, noting in his comments that the group was “obviously well-prepared: and had had “solid teaching.” He praised their “full, rich sound… great programming, well-played, musical performance.” Strommen also noticed the characteristic energy that Matta brings to her job as band director, commenting, “your conductor, wow…she’s a fireball!”
Diane Wittry, another Festival judge, noted, “I liked the energy [the Lincoln Academy band] brought to the performance. The Sousa was especially well-played and well balanced [and had] good variety of dynamics.”
Maureen Dodge is the parent of an LA band musician who traveled with the Wind Ensemble to New York. She said, “The judges were extremely impressed not only with the students that performed, but how Liz [Matta] directed them; making sure the students didn’t rush, and that they understood the importance of each note from start to finish. All the judges were impressed with the music choices…. the music we performed was college level and beyond, not high school. I was extremely proud listening to these students and how well they handled themselves. Liz deserves full credit from start to finish.”
Dodge continued, “most of these schools [at the Festival] were much larger than ours, they had auditions for the programs, kids were cut…and Liz takes everyone. Some of these schools came with three band programs, several chorus programs, etc. They also had several band directors for each program, i.e jazz director, wind ensemble, orchestra, etc. We have one that does it all. I overheard some of the others students from other schools during the cruise that we took after the award ceremony complementing our students on how well they performed.”
“I was amazed at how kind the judges were,” said Nathan McIvor, a Lincoln Academy junior who traveled to New York with the Wind Ensemble. “They gave a lot of constructive criticism as opposed to just finding faults.”
“It was incredible to celebrate with everyone after watching all of our work to that point,” said senior Alex Enders, who also plays the saxophone. “I plan on being a Music Education major after high school.”
Enders, and and Barry Yan, both LA seniors and saxophone players, were awarded the “Maestro Award” at the Heritage Festival. This honor is given to “students who display extraordinary musical ability and sensitivity.” Enders is from Newcastle, Barry Yan is from China, and they have been playing saxophone together under Matta’s teaching for three years.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working with both of these guys in private lessons since their sophomore year as well as Band and Jazz Bands for four years, AP Music Theory during their Junior year, and as the advisor to their Senior Independent Projects,” said Matta. “They have developed a great friendship and have been motivating each other all these years, yet they couldn’t have developed more different sounds and styles despite having worked so closely. They will both Major in Music next year (Alex at USM and Barry at UCONN) and this award was a great way to complete a high school music career for each of them!”
Matta emphasized what an important role traveling to New York City and playing in the Heritage Festival has in the education of young musicians. “Getting out in the world, seeing other bands play, performing in front of judges; these experiences are essential in developing the skills these musicians need if they are going to continue their music education after high school. I am incredibly grateful for the community support that makes this trip possible. We are incredibly grateful to parents, neighbors, and community members who support LA music program fundraisers throughout the year, coming to our concerts, and making donations.”
“The music program at LA continues to represent our school well,” noted Head of School David Sturdevant. “It’s easy to see all of the hard work that the students and teachers put in to make the program a success, and it’s a pleasure to see individual students grow as musicians and the ensembles come together to make beautiful music.”
The Gold-Rated Lincoln Academy Wind Ensemble, as well as the Concert Band will perform their annual Spring Concert at the Damariscotta Baptist Church on Sunday, May 1 at 6 pm. This concert is open to the public, with admission by donation.