On a cloudless Friday morning, nine Las Lomas musicians assemble during Academy to rehearse new, noteworthy music. Why, you ask?
Our theater program’s upcoming musical Bright Star, will feature Las Lomas’ music program in its pit orchestra. The pieces in this musical deviate from typical wind ensemble/orchestral arrangements. This challenges music students to pick up new instruments and musical styles. Here are some of Bright Star’s musicians—students who are not typically in the spotlight but hold indispensable roles in this production.
Trombonist and pianist, senior Eli Annoni plays in Las Lomas’ Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band. Annoni will be playing accordion in the musical, which he learned last year for Twelfth Night. “I have always found enjoyment in learning new instruments, and the accordion has been on the top of my list, as it is a very complex and dynamic instrument. When I found out Mr. Hensley had one of his own, I took on the challenge to learn it,” says Annoni. He explains how Bright Star’s bluegrass style deviates from typical ensemble music, “The music is relatively challenging due to its quick tempo and unique style,” he admits. Annoni is thrilled to participate.
Senior Soren Bear was five years old when he began playing the piano. Since then, Bear picked up the clarinet and music composition. Although, rehearsing and practicing new forms of music has its share of challenges. “Because it has been a few years since I took formal lessons, I have had to work harder to get my part down. I anticipate that the unfamiliar style of music… will make rehearsals challenging,” he says. As a senior, Bear works around an already-busy schedule in order to participate in Bright Star. But it’s worth it, he says. “Some of my friends told me how much fun it was to be a part of the pit orchestra. I wanted to experience it once before I graduate.”
Jessica Khaw, a junior, has been playing cello for three years. “I’m working with a lot of highly talented musicians, and I have a hard time keeping up with the rehearsals due to (the) fast pace,” she says. Khaw joined Las Lomas’ Orchestra and the Diablo Regional Youth Orchestra as a freshman and has made tremendous progress since then. “I wanted to participate in the musical in my freshman year, but because of my lack of experience, I was unable to participate,” she says. Through this experience, Khaw has gained an appreciation of working in groups with instruments outside of the string group.
Marshall Hey has been playing in the percussion section since the fourth grade allowing him nine years of experience in band. However, in the piece “Bright Star” Marshall has switched to a completely different instrument, switching to the mandolin. With constant practice everyday and constant rehearsal times Marshall will not only play and master thirty songs but also be apart of multiple two hour performances during the following two weeks. “It’s a different type of music than we usually play and we experience new sounds we don’t usually get to play.”
Freshman Nathaniel Ho has been playing the violin, viola and piano consistently for several years now. Since he started violin lessons, he has played in numerous chamber groups which include the Youth Performers Orchestra, and later joined the Diablo Regional Youth Orchestra along with Jessica Khaw shortly after making the switch to the viola. “I wasn’t used to the country style after playing classical music all my life,” he said. He is glad to have joined the pit orchestra in playing the soundtrack of Bright Star allowing him to be “exposed to another genre of music, one I wasn’t used to.”
Guitarist Ben Wilson also had to make a difficult transition from his main instrument to another. Starting his music career in the beginning of middle school, Ben Wilson has made his pursuit and continuation in band due to the friendly community, the friends and relationships he makes, and how it, “kind of pushes me and makes me perform and think outside the box.” When asked Ben’s difficulty in learning the Banjo his teacher and mentor Mrs. Ravina said, “We actually bought a banjo that was strung like a guitar… so he needed to learn how to pluck a banjo instead of strumming like how he would play a guitar.”
Kennon Otake has been playing the violin or aka, fiddle in Bright Star since he was four years of age, and joined the Las Lomas band when he was a sophomore. Kennon Otake has enjoyed playing music due to the amazing community. However, even with the years of experience, Otake still needs to go to the hour long rehearsals and practice everyday for the six performances of Bright Star due to the difference between the rhythms, style and sound between Bluegrass music in Bright Star compared to the classical music played in the Las Lomas bands. Even with the difficulties of the piece Otake enjoys the long, rigorous practices and, “hopes you enjoy the show!”
Adam Boegel not only loves the music course, but music runs in his blood. “My grandfather and my dad are both musicians who played percussion… been a big influence in my music path,” Adam Boegel said. He started playing in band over eight years ago, and for Bright Star Adam Boegel plays the auxiliary percussion in the piece. This includes the spoons which are not a usually seen instrument in usual music pieces played at Las Lomas. Whilst learning the new instrument was hard and the piece had a different style, Boegel feels that “It (Music) has made me a more creative person and more expressive not, through just the music but through the relationships we make.”
Zephyr Moss, a percussion player is playing the drum set in Bright Star. Moss started band in the fourth grade and has been playing the drum set since the sixth. Moss likes pit band due to its “fun and relaxed atmosphere, nice people and fun music… it allows me a different perspective.” Moss and the others use many academies and after school sessions to practice the thirty songs for the six two-hour long performances. “It’s a lot more difficult than regular band,” Moss says, “but it’s a lot easier for me… I’m just in the back keeping the beat steady.”