WAVERLY – Two Waverly band students had some extra practices to get in this spring. But the musicians didn’t mind a bit, especially since it was all for a special performance at Carnegie Hall.
Camryn Hummel and Cody Johnson went to New York City June 19 to take part in the 2019 Middle School Honors Performance Series. The series is for sixth through eighth graders and involved rehearsals and a concert for band, orchestra and choir. In total, 610 students from the United States, Canada, England, Qatar and Malysia took part in the series.
The series culminated with a public performance at Carnegie Hall on June 22.
Hummel and Johnson, who will be freshmen this coming school year, were nominated for the honor band by Waverly Music Teacher Jim Kucera. The selection process involved an audition tape and a biographical essay.
Hummel plays the bass clarinet and said it was in March when they found out they had been selected. She recalled that she was in science class when she found out.
“I remember getting so excited,” she said.
Johnson said there were a few months in between submitting the audition tape and finding out about being selected. He said the wait wasn’t too bad, but he was getting anxious.
“I was really anxious to find out if I made it or not,” he said.
Once selected, the work just began for the young band members because soon after they received the music they would be playing.
Johnson said he practiced the music almost every day, and it was difficult to play at first.
“But, as I practiced, I got to know it better,” he said.
The sheet music also came with a recording of the songs. So that helped the musicians hear not only their parts, but how the entire band should come together.
Hummel said listening to the recordings really helped her as she practiced at home.
“That helped me feel more comfortable with the music,” she said.
Still, when she arrived in New York and started rehearsing with the band, it was an entirely new experience.
“It was just so different from playing it alone in my bedroom,” she added.
Once in New York, the band was directed by Robert Tayler, a professor of music and director of bands at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
Hummel said the days in New York were busy with rehearsals. The band practiced from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
“It was a very busy schedule,” she said.
The students were broken up into groups of about 10 to 15. With a chaperone, each group went to breakfast and took lunch breaks. This was the time that the musicians did get in a little sight-seeing during the day.
Johnson recalled having lunch in Central Park one day and taking a trip past Trump Tower.
Hummel said there was not a lot of time to actually spend during the meal-break tours, but at least they got to see a few places. There was an extended family package offered as well, and Hummel and her family got to spend some time at a few of those sites after the concert.
For Hummel, though, those group outings were not just about catching something to eat and seeing a few places to visit.
She said it was a chance to get to know other students in the band. She got to be friends with several students, including ones from Canada and Malaysia, and intends to stay in contact with them.
While the days were devoted to rehearsal, the students had the opportunity to experience some of New York’s music culture as well. They got a tour of Radio City Music Hall and were taken to a Broadway Show.
Of course, the big finale for the series was the concert with the band, orchestra and choir in front of a packed Carnegie Hall.
Both Hummel and Johnson called that an amazing experience.
Hummel’s favorite piece the band played was “Letters from Sado.”
“We got to add some improvisation,” she said.
The musicians, for example, could tap their music stands or add other improvisational sounds to the song. She said it made the music different and fun to play.
Johnson’s favorite piece was the very last song they played for the concert.
“I really liked the march,” he recalled.
He liked the beat and tempo of the music.
Overall, Johnson said it was an experience he does not regret taking part in. He hoped to get back to Carnegie Hall someday.
The same was true for Hummel. The experience was one that has really helped her expand her musical depth and explore directing styles.
Coming out of middle school and heading into the high school band, Hummel will be transitioning to a new band director. She said her experience with the Honor Performance Series gave her a third director to study under.
Just to be able to have a completely different view of music direction, she said, is something that she will take from the experience.