By Emily Laskey
Only few art forms truly unify a group of people in the soulful, intimate way that music has the ability to do. At the College, music performances have provided opportunities for many talented student musicians to share their craft to a vast audience of peers, family members and faculty, while telling stories and illuminating connective emotions through song.
The TCNJ Brass Ensemble, TCNJ Brass Quintet and TCNJ Concert Band took to the stage in Mayo Concert Hall on Thursday, April 28, for their semi-annual performance to showcase the pieces and features they have worked on throughout this semester. All three ensembles came together to create a unified atmosphere between the music and the audience, showing the ways in which music at the College transcends artistry by telling stories that evoke the human experience.
The concert opened with the TCNJ Brass Ensemble, directed and conducted by Adjunct Professor of music James W. Hala. The performance featured a small, uniform group of musicians who played three songs for the audience. Each piece was presented with a vocal introduction by one of the performers, which provided an easy transition between songs that helped to set the context from piece to piece. They began with two movements of the collective piece “Of Kingdoms and Glory,” which tells the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Queen Guinevere and a dragon. The plot became evident through the symphonic transitions of key and tempo, supported by sophomore trumpet soloist Noah Brown, who played the part of the dragon. These particular selections helped to create a clear story for the audience, as the thematic melodies were played to represent people and actions.
TCNJ Brass Ensemble concluded its performance with “Tent of Terror,” the first movement from “A Little Russian Circus,” which created a suspenseful circus presentation through a lively tempo leading up to the finale. The ensemble had then set the stage for the next performances by TCNJ Brass Quintet, which comprises only five student musicians.
TCNJ Brass Quintet, also directed by Hala, featured five talented brass musicians, each holding their own part throughout two self-conducted pieces. The first, “Organ Sonata No. 2,” was originally written for the organ, but was impressively performed by the quintet and each individual’s part carried and unified the harmonies. Although only five musicians participated, the sonata sounded as though a full band was playing. Their concluding piece, “Adagio for Strings,” told a heartwarming story through the legato transcendence of sections that flowed into one another through minor and flat key signatures, setting the somber, soulful tone. Just before the intermission, the audience was left with the lingering feelings of connection and peace, brought upon by the immense talent of the College’s student musicians and the way their music had spoken volumes.
To open the second half of the show was the TCNJ Concert Band, directed and conducted by Marian Stewart, which featured a much larger, diverse group of musicians. Brass, string, percussion and wind were all combined to create a grand and complex collective performance. Highlights included a classical Tchaikovsky piece entitled “Marche Slave,” a familiar melody frequently featured in television and film, and most recently in the video game “Fallout 4.”
“Marche Slave” brought classical music to the modern day, connecting the historical piece to a top video game in which audience members can relate.
“It felt like I was experiencing a part of history as I played it,” said freshman physics major Jake Syetta, who played the alto saxophone with TCNJ Concert Band.
Overall, the concert had not only presented a beautiful showcase, but also an upstanding example of the many musical opportunities offered at the College.
“Music is something I’m really passionate about,” said freshman physics and secondary education dual major Samantha Staskiewicz, a percussionist for TCNJ Concert Band. “We all have that drive to be there and perform each piece. I love that performing is really a unifying experience.”
TCNJ Concert Band ended the night with the contemporary piece “Strange Humors,” a significant contrast to the other songs. The usage of the djembe, an African drum uncommon to the U.S., added an interesting layer to the finale of the concert and further allowed for the music to reach its audience at its ultimate potential.
The well-rounded musical presence and opportunity on campus became evident in the sole conviction of the incredible performance. Combining musical performances with lyrical storytelling, the entirety of the concert expressed the talented artistry of the College’s student musicians that truly resonated with the audience throughout the evening.