They marched passed the crowd of parents, stowed their luggage on the bus and set off for Rochester, escorted by a motorcade of fire trucks.
The Baldwin High School Wind Symphony was chosen to perform at the 86th annual conference of the New York State School Music Association on Dec. 2 — the only school on Long Island to be selected. The group was honored as a featured ensemble, which the school district said is a major accomplishment after over two and a half years of restrictions and social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.
As the student musicians prepared to board two buses to Rochester on Dec. 1, parents and members of the Baldwin Fire Department cheered them on. As the buses headed down Grand Avenue for the five-and-a-half-hour journey, they were escorted by a motorcade of fire trucks and police vehicles.
According to the school district, performing at the conference is one of the highest honors a school ensemble can receive, because the selection recognizes exemplary demonstrations of music education and performance. School ensembles are selected based on a recording and a biography of the ensemble, reviewed by NYSSMA leadership
The theme of the conference was “Connect, Belong and Create,” and it featured a variety of works and composers. Scott Dunn, Baldwin High’s wind ensemble teacher, said this was the first time the Wind Symphony was invited to take part, which he considers a tremendous accomplishment.
Dunn said he was proud to perform music by more diverse composers this year — like “Montuno,” by Roberto Sierra, a Puerto Rican-American composer. Dunn said was excited to showcase the group’s rendition of the work, which he said incorporates classical music and Puerto Rican styles.
“Most of classical music is written by dead white males,” Dunn said, “so we were focusing on composers that create artistic music, not because they’re from an under-represented community, but because we think their music is good.”
Dunn said he was invited to present a workshop called “Diversity in Wind Band Repertoire” at the conference to bandleaders across the state — with the help of Greg Sisco, the band director at Manhasset High School and graduate of Baldwin High School. Dunn and Sisco spoke about promoting diversity in wind ensembles and incorporating the music of under-represented composers.
“Baldwin is a diverse community that’s been making music at the highest level for many, many years,” Dunn said. “This year we’re playing music from a diverse range of composers, which I think will land well with the audience in Rochester.”
The Wind Symphony previewed some of what the musicians performed in Rochester at the high school’s winter concert on Nov. 30.
Elissa Kirchner, the Baldwin Civic Association’s Beautification chair and the mother of 16-year-old Logan Kirchner, who plays trumpet in the group, said she was proud to see her son be a part of this accomplishment.
“All of the hard work and dedication from the Wind Symphony and the teachers was beautiful to see at their concert Wednesday,” Elissa Kirchner said. “It fills my heart to know that they will get to experience this, a memory that will last a lifetime. Especially the way the community and firehouses came together to send them off.”