Corner Brook High band to play Carnegie Hall

Cory Hurley cory.hurley@tc.tc
Published on December 16, 2013
Darren White conducts the Corner Brook Regional High Wind Symphony band at its Christmas concert, "Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013 at the school.
Stephen Colson

CORNER BROOK — “Go big or go home” could easily be the mantra of any wind symphony, but the Corner Brook Regional High band is certainly living by it this year.

The ‘big’ they are going for is the mecca of concert venues — Carnegie Hall in New York City. They will take to one of the stages located on Seventh Avenue, like most of the greatest performers of classical music have, in April for the 2014 National Band and Orchestra Festival .

While more than 46,000 events have taken place at the historic music hall, it will be the first time for a Corner Brook Regional High band. In fact, this will mark the first time the band will perform out of the country after the school’s symphony captured gold standard — and were awarded most outstanding ensemble and whose percussion was recognized as the best section — at the Toronto Festival of Music last season.

This year, the bar has been raised even higher — perhaps nothing could top it.

That significance has certainly not been lost on Level 3 student Sarah Newell, who says the trip will be a perfect culmination of her six years in band.

“Every musician dreams of playing at Carnegie Hall,” she said. “To have that experience, to go there and just be on that stage, where so many great musicians have been, is going to be a fantastic experience. It’s iconic.”

It will surely go on her resume when she applies for music school at Memorial University of Newfoundland in the fall.

Newell realizes it is not only her reaping the benefits of such a monumental school outing. To be able to do this with her friends and bandmates, many of whom she began playing with six years ago in junior high, is a special feeling.

The alto saxophonist said it is also like a reward for Darren White, the school’s music teacher and band master, for all his years of hard work. It will be his first time in Carnegie Hall too, and she suspects the opportunity means a lot to him.

“I have only ever had two band teachers, but I don’t expect it will ever get better than him,” Newell said of White. “I think it is a fabulous thing that he gets to do this and he, himself, gets to direct a band at Carnegie Hall. That’s quite a reward for all the years he’s worked.

“I am pretty proud to say that I will get to work with him at Carnegie Hall, and experience this wonderful reward with him.”

Daniel Jacobson, a baritone saxophonist, said attending the orchestra festival was certainly never anything he envisioned this year. He said striving to reach the level of musicianship and standards expected at such a prestigious event is motivation for him and his fellow students.

“I wouldn’t say it is a negative kind of pressure,” he said. “If you are willing to work for it, it will be rewarding in the end. I wouldn’t say it will be stressful, it is about doing your best. It is something to work toward and, once we achieve it, it will be all the better.”

Meanwhile, White is indeed equally as thrilled as the students for the opportunity. Although proud of every band he’s lead, and saying that he cherishes every opportunity, he admits it is special.

“It certainly would be the highlight of my instrumental teaching career,” he said. “It is one of the top two or three places to play in the world. To get to do that, is almost overwhelming.”

It’s not only expected to be the greatest experience for a high school band in Corner Brook, but it is also the largest financial venture they have taken on. Organized through School’s Out Tours, White estimates the trip will cost the 75 students about $100,000. They are already underway with fundraising events and activities, including last week’s Christmas concert collaborating with G.C. Rowe Junior High.

If you asked the group, “How to get to Carnegie Hall,” they may respond with a lot of fundraising. However, White shares violinist Mischa Elman’s thoughts on the question — practice.

The band master said he is not necessarily changing any of their preparations because of the special event. Anybody that knows White or his students can attest to it, he works the students equally hard for every show.

“I can’t say we will work any harder than we have, because we prepare the same for every festival,” he said. “But, we do know, at the end of the day, it is going to be a little more special because of where we are performing.”