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Mid Island Band Festival
sayville.com - 2/5/2012
Sarah Elsesser

Mid Island Band celebrated its fifty-fourth annual festival on January 28th. This grueling, all weekend long festival consists of six schools (Sayville, Hauppauge, Patchogue/Medford, Port Jefferson, and Sachem North and East) coming together to rehearse, and ultimately, perform one magnificent concert. Each year, the band is conducted by a different special guest, and this year the 108 selected students had the honor of working with Chief Warrant Officer 3, Mark L. Kimes.

Mark Kimes is currently the conductor of the Hauppauge High School Chamber Choir, Concert Choir, and Vocal Jazz Ensemble. In addition, he serves as the Conductor and Commander of the 42nd Infantry Division Band of the New York Army National Guard. In 2005, he led his band through the Iraqi war zone while completing musical and security missions. What made this U.S. band so distinct, was that it was the first reserve component band to be sent into a war zone since the Korean War. In the end, Kimes was not only able to successfully do his job, but also return his entire band home safe and sound.

The festival began on a Friday, January 27th, when the students left their schools with music and instruments in tow as they head to this year’s host school, Hauppauge High School. Rehearsal for this anxious crowd started at 2:30pm, when they met their conductor and did a simple run through the program. The rest of the night was spent on correcting rhythmical mistakes, working on intonation, and upping the speeds of the pieces. For these hardworking musicians, this was only the beginning. The group was up, bright and early, the next morning for rehearsal round two. Kimes was confident that the students would be able to execute his ambitious program with excitement and near perfection, which was saying a lot with the small allotted time they had together.

On the night of the concert, Kimes prediction was far exceeded. The band of young musicians played to the best of their abilities and their long rehearsals surely paid off. The concert opened with “The Star Spangled Banner” arranged by Jack Stamp, and was specially conducted by Sayville’s Peter DeSalvo, who will be retiring at the end of this year. This well known song started softly with just the bass clarinets, bassoons, and clarinets. Then, it grew louder until the climactic moment when the trumpet’s sound was soaring high above the band and filling the auditorium with the beautiful patriotic melody. The intensity the group played with was incredibly moving and a perfect opening.

The next two songs, “To Dance in the Secret Garden” by Robert W. Smith and “Pirates!” by Travis J. Weller, were fun songs that the audience could really get into. The Secret Garden was a cute upbeat song with solos for each of the instruments, and Sayville students played them all. This was due to fact that they won the first chair positions in their seating auditions. “Pirates,” on the other hand, was made up of three movements that sure did shiver me timbers, as any good pirate would say. They were haunting and engaging.

The second to last song was “Each Time You Tell Their Story,” by Samuel L. Haze. This one was the most emotional piece of the entire program. It was beautifully played, soft and tender, and in the middle, the band dropped out except for a lone snare drum who played tight rolls as a poem was being read aloud. It started with “Not everyone chooses to die…” and continued to talk about losing a loved one due to war. The piece ended with the entire auditorium silent except for the lingering wind chimes. It sent chills down the spine and tears down the cheek; it was simply beautiful. The final song of the first half  “Selections from CHICAGO” arranged by Ted Ricketts was definitely a crowd favorite. Who could resist tapping their foot along to “All That Jazz,” “My Own Best Friend,” and “Razzle Dazzle”?

After a brief intermission, the band started with “Cambrian Explosion” by Richard L. Saucedo. This thrilling tune started with mallets and a booming timpani solo, before the trumpets came in. Shortly after, a quirky, jazzy, clarinet solo was performed by the first chair clarinet, Brianna Ambrosino from Hauppauge. This topped the piece off flawlessly. Following that, was “Arabian Dances” by Brian Balmages and “Fate of the Gods” by Steven Reineke. They were intoxicatingly mysterious and seemed like it could come straight out of Aladdin. It was filled with awesome percussion sections that made you want to get up and belly dance. The program ended on a happier note, yet still had that patriotic feel. The closing number was entitled “National Emblem,” and was a march written by E.E. Bagley. It was a huge contrast to the previous songs, but still the dynamics were great.

The entire festival was beyond successful and filled with great memories. The students had a blast making new friends, playing challenging music, and getting to know their conductor. Mike Kimes was perfect for the students with his huge smile, sense of humor, and dedication. It became evident that the program had a strong military feel to it and almost told an emotional story about Kimes' journey. Everything seemed to add to the whole Mid Island Band Festival experience for the students and, I’m sure, even with the rigorous rehearsals and music, they wouldn’t have traded it for the world.

Sarah Elsesser is a fun-loving, Senior at Sayville High School. She enjoys trying new things, writing and being around people. When she is not spending time with her friends or babysitting she is cuddling up with a new book. During the school year you can find her playing Bass Clarinet in the Wind Ensemble or sitting in the bleachers cheering on her high school's football team.

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