With their Orlando trip behind them, members of the Leesville Symphonic Band have turned their attention to the next big event of their calendar year: the Spring Concert.
Among the three formal concerts hosted by the bands program each year, the Spring Concert is unique. With the Winter and Festival Concerts, the band’s repertoire is limited by the holiday theme and state requirements, respectively.
But with the Spring Concert, the band is presented an opportunity to experiment with a more musically diverse program. Though, over the years, the program has come to be dominated by one thing: senior solos.
At the close of each year, Symphonic Band seniors are given the opportunity to choose a solo piece (and band accompaniment) and perform it for friends and family alike at the Spring Concert. The tradition evolved over the years as a way to honor the band’s seniors and showcase their individual talent at their final concert as a member of the band.
This year’s concert program will include the following:
Brandon Williams (Clarinet): “Concert Fantasia on Motives from Verdi’s Opera ‘Rigoletto’”– Luigi Bassi
Kyle Tracy (Clarinet): “Clarinet Concert”– W. A. Mozart
Alyssa Codispoti/Brooklynn Adkins (Contrabass Clarinet/ Bass Clarinet): “The Old Grumbly Bear”– Julius Fucik
Luke Taylor (Alto Saxophone): “Fantaisie”– Jules Demersseman
Hunter Cornelius (Baritone Saxophone): “Children’s Suite for Solo Alto Saxophone and Winds”– Alfred Reed
Sam Massimila (Trumpet): “Ode for Trumpet”–Alfred Reed
Kelley Wheeler (Euphonium): “Fantasy for Euphonium and Concert Band”– Philip Sparke
Seth Pixton (Tuba): “Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep”– E. De Lamater
Jacob Montgomery (Piano): “Rhapsody in Blue”– George Gershwin
Alex Umfleet (Xylophone): “Zircus Renz”– Gustav Peter
“It started off with just one or two solos,” said David S. Albert, current interim director of bands at Leesville. “But as the talent developed and the program evolved, more and more seniors wanted to play solos. Now we’re struggling to fit in one or two full band pieces.”
Many of the solos are graduate or doctorate level pieces, widely ranging in style and demanding an enormous amount of both technical and musical ability from the soloist. It’s not uncommon for seniors to begin looking at solos during their junior year, and most start learning their solos months before the Spring Concert.
Alex Umfleet, a senior percussionist in the band, remembers the first time he heard his solo — a xylophone feature by Gustav Peter, entitled “Zircus Renz.”
“I found my solo two years ago when I was watching videos on YouTube,” recalled Umfleet. “I really wanted to pick a solo that would engage everyone: me, the band, and the audience.”
Though the program has come to be dominated by the term “senior solos,” Albert has developed a marked disdain for the term.
“I’ve heard people call it ‘the senior solo concert’ before,” explained Albert, “and I think that misconception lends the concert an undeserved stigma.”
“People hear ‘senior solos,’ and they think it’s just a recital– no band, just a lone soloist. Besides being factually untrue, this thinking is harmful because in my experience — the result is often that people lose interest in attending the concert altogether.”
Albert went on to explain that each solo piece has a band accompaniment, and that having this accompaniment also serves the important purpose of teach students the delicate art of accompanying a soloist.
“The ability to accompany a soloist is a technique many groups don’t possess, and many young musicians never learn,” described Albert. “Being able to play, move and adapt to a soloist’s particular interpretation and style is an essential skill for anyone considering music performance as a profession.”
So as the Leesville Band Program has evolved, the Spring Concert has evolved in turn. Evolved into a chance for the band to experiment with some new and interesting literature. Evolved into an opportunity for the band to feature its the talent of its senior class. Evolved into a chance to learn the art of musical accompaniment.
But most of all — the Spring Concert is a chance to end the year on a good note.