RHAM concert brings high school, middle school musicians together

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Hebron - posted Tue., Nov. 5, 2013
Morgan Cunningham accompanies the RHAM Middle School chorus. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Morgan Cunningham accompanies the RHAM Middle School chorus. Photos by Melanie Savage.

According to RHAM High School instrumental instructor Nicholas Kokus, the Oct. 30 performance at the high school was a unique collaboration between the middle school and high school music departments. “In the past, the high school fall concert was only high school ensembles,” said Kokus. This year’s pre-Halloween concert featured multiple groups from both the high school and middle school grades. “I think this concert was a great success in pulling up the younger ensembles to the next level,” said Kokus.

Repertoire selection “is a long and careful process,” said Kokus. “I meticulously examine every piece I program to be sure it will accomplish our curricular and musical goals.”

Middle school instrumental instructor Kerrie Verrastro agreed that many factors influence the choice of pieces. “For band, we chose the music based on what the [instrumentation] abilities of the students would be,” she said. Both instructors like the music of Frank Tichelli, a composer who wrote two of the selections performed jointly by middle school and high school students.  "'Joy' was written in honor of Frank Tichelli's new baby,” said Verrastro. “I performed the piece four years ago when my son was born, and we thought it would be appropriate to do again because Nick is now a new father.”

Kokus’ son was born five weeks ago. “I also recently became a father and was - hopefully - able to bring new meaning and understanding to the emotional content of the piece,” he said.

The other Tichelli piece, "Abacadabra," “was a perfect choice to go with that because [the next day was] Halloween,” said Verrastro.

Along with individual performances by various groups such as the high school chamber singers, the middle school chorus and the high school symphonic band, the concert paired groups of students from different levels. “Abacadabra,” for example, was performed by the high school wind ensemble and the eighth-grade band. “Joy” featured the high school symphonic band and the seventh-grade band.

“Each group is performing with a group that is one level, or more, higher than they are,” said Verrastro. “This is to push musical skills with the safely net of more experienced performers. It gives them a glance into where they are going and what they need to work on next. We are hoping that it will motivate them to begin preparing for the next level and to enjoy playing with and listening to better musicians,” said Verrastro. “The top groups are contributing to the rest of the department by modeling excellent musicianship.”

"[This] was also a great showcase of the seven to 12 music department at RHAM,” said Kokus.

“We are hoping to show our music parents where the program is going and to give them a taste of everything that RHAM music has to offer in large ensembles,” said Verrastro. “It is also a positive way for us to kick off the year for all.”

In addition to Kokus and Verrastro, RHAM teachers involved in the Oct. 30 fall concert were Bailey Emerson, middle school vocal instructor, and James Mirakian, high school vocal instructor.

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