The Jazz Band and Orchestra Share the Stage


Doug Wang ’23

The Hotchkiss Orchestra and Right Brain Logic, the school jazz band, held their first concert of the year on December 7.

Rousing jazz beats, as well as the passionate chords of Beethoven, shared the stage in Elfers Hall. The first Ensemble Concert of the year, which showcased a unique combination of jazz and classical music, took place on December 7.
The jazz band, Right Brain Logic, which consists of 20 student and faculty musicians, performs twice every year on the Elfers stage. Over the course of the semester, the band rehearsed twice each week to prepare for the concert. Mr. Michael Musillami, instructor in jazz guitar and director of the band, said, “When we [began] rehearsals in September,… I [tried] to get a sense of the strengths and weaknesses of each player. Can they read music? Can they improvise? What is their sound like? Once this is settled, I can arrange the chart specifically for the new group of [band] members.”
During the concert, Right Brain Logic performed a piece by Mr. Musillami, who composes an original piece for every concert. This year’s piece was written in memory of Robert Paris ’10, who unexpectedly passed away in August. During his time at the school, Paris studied under Mr. Musillami and played the guitar in Right Brain Logic. During the piece, saxophonist Kostia Howard ’20 and guitarist Desmond Teague ’20 each performed a five-minute solo with accompaniments from the rest of the band. Mr. Musillami said, “Composing music based on non-musical life events can be ambiguous in nature. With repeated listenings, the music can begin to make sense in a human way. The piece has a beginning, an arching middle or body, and an end [to represent] the circle of life.”
Following Right Brain Logic, the Hotchkiss Orchestra performed pieces by Ludwig van Beethoven, Georges Bizet, and Pablo de Sarasate. Composed of 50 student musicians, the ensemble is conducted by Mr. Fabio Witkowski, head of the music program. The orchestra joined in the celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday this month by including his pieces, Fidelio Overture and Romance No. 2, in the concert program. Mr. Witkowski said, “It is always great to see students working together towards a common goal. The December concert always features new students, so it is great to hear the sound of the new orchestra.”
The concert marked the first solo performance of Shane Kim ’20, who played two violin solos with the orchestra. Kim shared, “[Sarasate’s] Zigeunerweisen [is] very technical and capricious. More than anything, however, I enjoy exploring the freedom [that] the gypsy musicians have. As exciting as it gets for the audience, the thrill I [felt] as I play the piece is something I will never be able to describe in words.”
Beatrice Conti ’22, who played the tuba in both ensembles, remarked, “While [the] orchestra is more formal and focuses on bringing classical pieces to life as accurately as possible, Right Brain Logic has a much more free-flowing approach and personal interpretation plays a bigger role in our performances.”
Audience members appreciated the collaborative nature of ensemble music. Yuki Zhang ’22 commented, “To see all the students working together and creating rousing music was wonderful. [Music] was certainly a unifying force that brought everyone together.”
The spring Ensemble Concert will take place in Elfers Hall on May 22, 2019. It will conclude the Senior ensemble members’ music careers at the school.