Student musicians show off skills at holiday concert

Nov 30, 2023

MATTAPOISETT — Old Rochester Regional Junior High School music students don’t shy away from a challenge — even at their annual holiday concert.

Eighth-grade musicians took the stage at the end of the concert on Wednesday, Nov. 29 to play a selection of three songs, each chosen by Band Director Richard Laprise to stretch the players in different ways.

“Typically when I have three pieces like this I try to think of three pieces that stretch the musicians in three different ways,” said Laprise.

He explained that one piece was chosen to stretch their technical ability, one was chosen to get students to think about and hear music in a different way, and another was chosen to “push them more emotionally,” said Laprise.

For eighth-grade trumpet player Rebecca Schaefer, 13, the band’s final selection “Moscow, 1941,” was one of the “most difficult pieces.”

“The tempo change in the middle of it — it almost doubles in tempo. You have to try to keep up,” she explained. “It’s a lot of different parts at once but it's a lot of fun … I feel like we did pretty well, we had a lot of practicing time and I feel like it paid off.”

According to Rebecca’s mom, Christine Schaefer, seeing her daughter perform on stage “continually amazes” her.

But the eighth-grade concert band wasn’t the only group to perform on Wednesday night. The school’s jazz band performed a few songs with featured soloists improvising over tunes like “Work Song,” “Sink or Swing,” and “Maximum Velocity.”

Soloists like Madelyn Sivil, Brody Morgan, Penelope Angeley and Nathanael Bushnell, to name just a few, are encouraged to improvise in the classroom and on stage, said Laprise.

During rehearsal “we all take turns going around the room and everybody gets a chance to improvise,” said Laprise. “It’s a very safe environment so even people who didn’t solo tonight do solo in that room because they feel more comfortable.”

According to Laprise, the school’s jazz band is not an auditioned group, but any seventh or eighth grade student who wants to devote a few extra hours after school is welcome to join.

Vocalists also had their time to shine with the concert’s opening performance “Turn off your Phone,” which Choir Director Angie Vaughn called “a public service announcement.”

The chorus also sang a selection of holiday tunes like “Dashing through the Snow,” “Winter Pathetique,” and “Whistle ‘Neath the Mistletoe,” which featured instrumentalists playing small percussion instruments, a slide whistle and kazoos.

The chorus closed their portion of the evening with a rendition of the theme song from the 2003 film “Elf.”

“It’s great to see so much support, it’s great to see our ensembles are growing,” said Vaughn. “In my 20-plus years, I haven’t seen quite so many band members and they sound pretty good if I say so myself.”