TMS band receives gift of new timpani
By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Tolland - posted Tue., Nov. 27, 2012
When the student percussionists of Tolland Middle School arrived at their Pumpkin Fest band concert on Oct. 19, they were pleasantly surprised to see two new timpani drums on their stage.
“I walked onto the stage and there were these two new timpani,” one of the students said.
“We weren't expecting this,” another said. “It was very shocking.”
The instruments, which cost about $3,000 for each timpano, were purchased by the Friends of Tolland Music – an organization headed by Tolland parent (and South Windsor teacher) Amy Begue, to replace old, broken ones the students had been sometimes using.
“We took delivery and it happened to be the same day as our performance, so it was kind of kismet,” said band teacher Heather Titus. “It was happenstance, but a wonderful one. The look on their faces when they walked on the stage and saw them – their smiles were wide and their eyes were bright. They finally had what they were supposed to. It was just one of those priceless moments.”
Begue said the group had received a grant from the Newman's Own Foundation, after a local resident, who is an employee of the foundation, had nominated the music department as a non-profit with certain needs.
“They knew what we were trying to do and said they'd like to help us out,” she said. “It's been something the middle school has wanted to do – round out that set of timpani – for quite a few years, but it was never something that could come up in the regular education budget. It was never something they could incorporate because they are such big items,” she said, adding that the Friends of Tolland Music have also had the drums on their wish list for a while.
The new timpani add more to the sound of the band, because the percussion section can play more notes. The timpani part is now more in line with the playing ability of the middle-schoolers' age.
“The music is adjusted to incorporate the instruments that they have, so they'd be at a deficit, because they don't have that full set of equipment,” Begue said. “So, it's a hole that had never gotten filled.”
Begue added that as the musicians progress, and play at a regional festival, for example, they'll be using a set of four timpani, which they would be less familiar with.
“We can do a lot more songs now,” one student said.
“We have different notes. You only really keep a timpano tuned at one note,” another student explained.
“They are able now to play songs that are of their ability level,” Titus said, adding that she previously had to modify the music for the lack of equipment, and that the entire band now sounds better. “It's one of the foundation instruments, and you can't have a strong building without a great basement,” she said.
Begue said the Friends' primary source of fundraising has been recording the district's bands' performances, re-mastering and producing them and then selling the CDs.
“It came about because the instructors had wanted it as a teaching tool,” she said. “If the kids could listen to how they did, and compare to what they were shooting for, and then listen to it objectively, they can learn from it.” She said many of the musicians' families routinely purchase the recordings, and the teachers are provided with them as well. The group had also previously provided the school with a saxophone and a bass clarinet.
The TMS band is now fully-timpani-ed and practicing for its winter concert series, Dec. 19-21. For more information, visit www.tolland.k12.ct.us.