Stressed? Tired? Tired of feeling stressed? Imagine this midweek pick-me-up. One hundred instrumentalists will perform a concert Wednesday, Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center at Greenwich High School.
The musicians are fifth- and sixth-grade band students from across the Greenwich school district . They are Honor Band members and the event is an annual festival. The concert's guest conductors is longtime Fairfield County music educator Sal LaRusso.
Each member of the large ensemble was nominated by their respective school's band teacher with selections based on their musical aptitude, hard work and dedication to their instruments.
"It is widely known that the Greenwich School District's instrumental music program is among the best in the state, and my experience with the students in the 2020 fifth and sixth grade Honor's Band has only reinforced that belief," LaRusso said.
He noted that "most visible" programs in school districts are typically ensembles and teacher in the high schools, but "the hidden gems" in Greenwich instrumental music department are in the "elementary and middle school classrooms."
"The dedication and passion that these incredible music educators share with their students were evident from the moment I stepped on the podium of the Performing Arts Center's stage. The preparation and commitment present in each student's attitude and performance was reflected in the unabashed pride and support of their teachers," LaRusso continued.
A Fairfield resident, LaRusso holds a bachelor of music degree from the Eastman School of Music and a master's degree in communications from Fairfield University.
He began his teaching career as the band and jazz director at Ponus Ridge Middle School in Norwalk. In 1980, he joined the music department in the Weston Public Schools as the high school and middle school instrumental music teacher, retiring in 2014 as director of bands and jazz ensembles at Weston High School.
During his 34-year tenure, LaRusso served as a guest conductor with orchestras, choral ensembles and theatrical groups of all ages in Weston. He is the musical director since 1988 of the Westport Community Band .
The unique collaboration of the Greenwich students has become an annual staple of the schools' band program, now in its third year.
"I believe it is something all of the teachers and students look forward to each year. It is exciting to have this high level of collaboration happening on a district-wide level," said Band Teacher and Honor Band Co-Chair Holly Brown.
The performers rehearsed as an ensemble three times, bolstering their performance with practice at home as well as in their respective schools.
The collaboration makes the experience unique. Often times, the sixth- graders serve as role models for their fifth-grade band partners, according to Band Teacher and Honor Band Co-Chair Mike Strange.
"I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the collaboration between our hardworking and talented band students. One of the main goals for this town wide Honor Band was to help encourage our students to continue playing and enjoying music throughout their GPS education."
Meanwhile, LaRusso likened the collaboration among the students to running a successful restaurant.
"The chef may get credit for the meal; but without everyone who participates in bringing that dish to the table–from the farmers to the sous chefs to the servers–the meal would not exist. Greenwich most assuredly has some terrific "chefs," but trust me, those that are putting in the effort out of the spotlight are as special as special can be. It is a joy to have had the opportunity to be a firsthand witness to both the reputation and future of the Greenwich instrumental program. But more importantly, I am thrilled to have had a role in sharing such enthusiastic excitement."
Wednesday's performance is free and open to the public. Greenwich High School is at 10 Hillside Road.