Band presents UIL pieces anticipating competition

Three bands perform their UIL music in concert for judges, supporters as a preview of their competition
The Wind Ensemble, conducted by director Kerry Taylor, plays in the Performing Arts Center Wednesday, Mar 27. “Some challenges we face with our music are always solved through our weekly sectionals,” Qadan said. “They are helpful because it gives each section the chance to work with one another on their weakest part of the music and fix everything that needs to be [fixed].”

In the dimly-lit Performing Arts Center (PAC), the family members and friends of three bands gather to listen to their loved ones’ precise work toward their upcoming UIL competitions April 9 and 10. Along with the band’s supporters, they welcome two judges to prepare them for the competitions: TMEA band and fine arts director Mike Howard and Richard Floyd– Texas Band Legend and former Austin Symphonic Band director. 

Introducing the concert Wednesday night, March 27, John Pearson, the conductor of the Concert band, welcomes the crowd, encouraging their appreciation of high level pieces that each band had been working to prepare this semester. 

The band department has four concert organizations: Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Winds, Symphonic Band, and Concert Band, with the Wind Ensemble being the only premier concert ensemble of all four bands. The Wind Ensemble is made up of upperclassmen, the Symphonic Band of a mix of all grades, and the Concert Band of underclassmen. 

The Symphonic Band and the Symphonic Winds played as one band for the concert, resulting in a total of three bands represented. 

“For the actual UIL competition, each band performs separately on about three pieces of music, as well as sight-reading a piece after our performance,” Band President Senior Danya Qadan said. “[In] sight-reading, we are given a piece of music we have never seen before. We have some time to look through our music and once time is called, we play the piece the best we can…for the judges.” 

As President, Qadan has been working to help her bandmates feel confident for their competition. She helps them work through the challenge of learning their music three months before their competition. 

“I continue to assure everyone that we will be prepared for our competition as long as we are putting in maximum effort during rehearsals and practicing parts we struggle with on our own,” Qadan said. “[O]ur biggest challenge is being as prepared as possible. I try to do my part to make sure everyone feels solid on our material and thinking as a group, especially in a time crunch.”

With Qadan’s support and weeks of sectionals, the Concert Band kicked off with a whimsical, welcoming tune that almost emulates an old Disney song with “Columbian March.” Between the musicians’ feet rhythmically tapping the PAC stage, the jingling of bells, and paper music pages flipping, filling the silence between pieces, the room was induced with focused performing.

The Concert band, conducted by director John Pearson, plays three pieces in the Performing Arts Center Wednesday, Mar 27. The band of mostly underclassmen meets during the Spring Semester only and have been working hard to prepare for UIL while settling in to playing in the group.

The band continued with “Choose Joy,” an uplifting reminder to find happiness when times are hard. This piece provided a modern take on Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” composed at a fast tempo that included the recognizable tune itself. Through the twinkling of xylophones, crescendo of trumpets, and cymbals triumphantly clashing, the piece is meant to be played lighthearted and grand.

Finally, the Concert band concluded their segment with two pieces of Oh Kentucky. “John Riley,” the first piece, implements a second recognizable tune, this time from “Wayfaring Stranger.” The first saxophone soloist welcomed the rest of the band, setting up the crescendos for the remainder of the song. The second piece, “Barn Dance,” was a collaborative closing to the band’s segment with syncopated claps from each musician opening the song. The danceable rhythm of this piece and the musicians’ polished sounds from each instrument closed their last couple minutes on stage. The Concert band took their bows to a standing ovation, and made their way to the Performing Arts Center seats to view the rest of the concert. 

Next, the Symphonic band flooded the stage and band conductor Taylor LaPrairie instructed them to do a minute of individual warm ups. The room filled with clashes, each instrument sticking out, with loosely played riffs and loud bangs preparing for a challenging collection of pieces. Directing the musicians to refocus and stop playing, LaPrairie then introduces the band, praising their ability to play college level literature as mostly freshmen and sophomores. 

The Symphonic Band, conducted by director Taylor LaPrairie, takes listeners around the world with pieces from Italy and Spain in the Performing Arts Center Wednesday, March 27. The mixed grade band started practicing for these fast-paced college literatures in the beginning of the third quarter.

Their first piece, “Inglesina,” is an untraditional march featuring vast tempo modifications and dynamic changes. This Italian song evoked feelings of up and down with each swell of sound. After, the band began a Spanish song, “La Procession de Rucio,” meant to resemble a fiesta. The piece was high-energy, displaying many soloists and flute features. Just when the music swells and is set up for the perfect grand ending, the piece unexpectedly decrescendos and mellows out, becoming soft and flowy to eventually build up once again. 

Lastly, the band closed out their time with “Illumination,” a fast paced piece meant to emulate light in music form. In this specific piece, the xylophone was the driving, constant instrument that seemed to lead the rest of the song. Its soft puttering resembled movement, and experiencing the sound felt like traveling at the speed of light itself. Again, the band was thanked with a standing ovation, and the Wind Ensemble, the highest level band, made their way to the Performing Arts Center stage. 

The Wind Ensemble set off playing “Commando March,” an extremely challenging and fast paced piece, as their opening song. This was unlike any common march, with intricate runs that remained in tune throughout the entire piece. Then, switching it up, the band moved on to an overture to “La Forza Del Destino,” which translates to “the force of destiny”. Because this piece is an overture for an opera, there was immense drama that lasted the entire song. The band interpreted this different style by incorporating a rapid pace, crisp cutoffs, and synchronized playing.

Finally, the Wind Ensemble ended with “Come Sunday,” which was meant to evoke a similar vibe to a church and welcoming the spirit into one’s body. The first movement, “Testimony,” begins with a spacious saxophone solo performed by senior Kole Aitala. As the woodwinds echo him, Aitala’s soulful playing connected the band with the audience as a pastor connects with churchgoers. 

“Having a solo can be a little nerve wracking, but ultimately it allows me to contribute to the band in a more meaningful and personal way,” Aitala said. “It’s a chance for me to showcase my hard work, and a moment I have been looking forward to throughout my highschool years.” 

The Wind Ensemble’s mastery of “Testimony’s” intricate runs and jazzy accidentals were telling of the work the musicians have put in this semester to produce a harmonious balance. 

Each section’s hard work comes together, when moving into their last piece the Wind Ensemble demonstrated an overall love for making music with one another while being able to control their instruments together. “Shout!” was an extremely fast paced and high energy piece which closed a concert that featured more serious and formal pieces. 

All three bands will perform these pieces at UIL Concert and Sight Reading at Leander High School, with Concert band’s performance April 9 and Symphonic and Wind Ensemble April 10. 

“It always feels good to look out into the audience after performing and know that people appreciate your hard work,” Qadan said. “It’s not common to have people attend the UIL competition, but if we could get more people to come out and show their support that would make [the competition] more fulfilling for everyone.”  

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