Stuyvesant In-Person Spring Choral and Instrumental Concerts Return

The Stuyvesant Music department hosted three in-person spring concerts after more relaxed COVID-19 regulations.

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By Hepzibah Srithas

In April, students in Stuyvesant’s music department performed at three in-person spring concerts held in the Murray Kahn Theater, including the Spring Choral Concert on April 13, the Spring Musical Showcase on April 27, and the Spring Instrumental Concert on April 29.

Organized by choral director Liliya Shamazov, orchestra director Joseph Tamosaitis, and band director Gregor Winkel, each concert required safety precautions. Audience members were required to pre-register for tickets, having to both show proof of vaccination and submit a health screening prior to attending. There was no livestream of the concerts, but they have been recorded and will be sent out to families.

The Choral Concert featured performances from various choruses, including A Capella, Men’s Chorus, Women’s Chorus, and Oratorio Choir. The Spring Musical Showcase featured performances from Beginner’s Band, Concert Band, Intermediate Orchestra, and Advanced Orchestra, while the Instrumental Spring Concert featured performances from Jazz Band, Symphonic Band, Symphony Orchestra, and various Chamber groups.

The concerts also featured the efforts of several student teachers who are currently working with the Stuyvesant Music Department. The Choral Concert featured a performance by student teacher José Velázquez, who has been working with the choral groups throughout the spring semester. “I enjoy having [student teachers] here because they always bring a new perspective, [...] this youthful excitement,” Shamazov said. “I like exposing my singers to a different teaching style and different teachers in general.”

The opportunity to oversee the production of musical pieces was also opened up to Stuyvesant students rather than teachers alone. “I was able to conduct two of the pieces for the women's chorus, which is not something I had any experience in,” senior Katherine Lake said. “I found that super cool to learn how to teach, or rather, [learn] new skills from watching Shamazov teach, and [to be] able to have much more control over the artistic flow of the piece.”

As opposed to the Band and Orchestra Holiday Concert, which occurred in the same evening, the spring performances were divided into two separate days and gave the ensembles more time to further display their musical abilities. “At the very end of the last piece, Mr. Tamosaitis brought in a student from the past, [Patrick Mangan (’02)] who is now a really fabulous player on Broadway and they did this Celtic piece [called Ferny Hill by the Chieftains],” Shamazov said.

Though dividing the event into multiple days accomodated for the large number of performing groups, the safety guidelines that were initially implemented posed a challenge to the concerts’ transition to an in-person setting. “During the Winter Concert, we were not sure if we would have a concert,” sophomore Rebecca Ke said. “Before December, we had to buy and wear chorus masks, which [...] wouldn’t sound as good as if we had our masks off.”

However, the recent lift of the mask mandate resolved much of the difficulties faced during rehearsals and guaranteed the presence of a spring concert. “For the spring, it was a lot easier [to sing] because we didn’t do social distancing as much and some kids weren’t in masks,” Shamazov said. “The vocal production was a little different and possibly [the] students [heard] each other a little bit differently.”

Even so, being able to manage an intense amount of practice for the concerts within a tight schedule proved to be an arduous task for many participants. “The whole band was stressed about how sudden this concert was after the spring break, and I can say that I felt nervous and stressed as I entered the stage,” freshman Jakob Weir said. “There wasn’t very much preparation; they expected us to play right after the break and we were only given three rehearsal days in the auditorium.”

Due to the overall fast-paced organization of the event, some thought that preparation for transitions between performance pieces was lacking. “I think we kind of went into it hoping we could just go with the program without planning too much in advance,” junior Felix Harkeness said. “But when the program goes from a massive band plus orchestra combination to small chamber groups with a piano, it’s just really hard to move things around quickly enough without planning it all out beforehand. All of that led to pretty long breaks between some of the pieces.”

Nonetheless, most performers expressed satisfaction with the concert outcome, believing that they were able to produce a memorable concert. “I would consider it a success, [as] we didn’t make any noticeable errors and people clapped,” Ke said. “[Apparently] the ticket sales I heard from Shamazov were the perfect number because it was enough that there were a lot of people but we didn’t have to open the smaller rooms in the back of the theater which would ruin the sound quality.”

Students acknowledged that the hard work put into perfecting each of their parts contributed to the successful execution of the performance. “Before each concert started, we spent class time learning our parts, memorizing the lines, and we had rehearsals to learn how to get off and on the stage,” Ke said. “We also had voice recordings at home to practice to see if [we were] on note, check pronunciation, rhythm, things like that.”

Overall, most students felt that the pieces they performed for the Spring Concerts were more challenging and noteworthy than those played in the winter. “I feel like our songs were harder and we also had more songs,” freshman Zaynab Anwar said. “They were just more enjoyable to play and they weren’t all Christmas songs, so that was fun. I definitely liked this [concert] better than the last one.”

Others believed what differentiated the spring concerts from those in the winter was the experience that students had gained after a semester. “I got to play a much bigger role than in my last spring concert, but I think there was definitely a great energy from the performers, some of whom I videotaped backstage,” senior Nora Archer said. “Last time there was a spring concert we also had an oratorio choir, but we have a lot more soloists now. Compared to this year's winter concert, everyone just knew more and seemed a bit more trained.”

As the school year comes to an end, the Spring Concert was the final opportunity for many students to showcase their musical talents in front of a Stuyvesant audience. “I read their names and presented them to the audience,” Shamazov said. “Most kids stay for four years so it becomes more of a family so [...] I think that it’s really nice to acknowledge that and say a formal goodbye before graduation.”

For the graduating seniors, this was not their last time performing since many plan to attend in the coming years. “I think the fact that so many of us are leaving but there’s so much talent beneath us is really exciting, so we all look forward to coming back,” Lake said. “I think that that’s why, for us, it’s not so sad, because we know that even if it’s virtual we can tune in for a day or come back for a day, and that possibility for us is exciting.”

Students and teachers alike look forward to seeing more incoming students fuel the future of the music ensembles. “I’m excited to see what happens to the chorus because there's a large volume of people leaving and we usually don’t get that many people coming in,” senior Michael Borczuk said. “[...] I just hope that the people that are in it now, the underclassmen, are as passionate as the seniors [who are] leaving are and continue to make it the way it is now.”