The ‘Phoenix’ and ‘Stingrays’ Start the Holiday Celebration

The Phoenix bands and the Stone Hill Middle School eighth grade band kicked off the fine arts holiday season with a winter concert on Dec. 8.


Anik Mridha

Freshman Nila Divakar, freshman Hasini Kasuganti, senior Sneha Nekkanty, sophomore Rishab Goel, and sophomore Jaden Thomas play their flutes during the first band concert of the year. The winter concert was Thomas’s first time as a first chair. “I worked really hard, and I was rewarded,” Thomas said.

The Phoenix bands had their first winter band concert of the year on Thursday, Dec. 8. For the seniors, it was a bittersweet performance. “It’s my last first concert, and we’re playing some pieces that are more advanced than what we’ve played in the past,” trumpet section leader senior Aadit Motwani said. Motwani has been a band member since his freshman year, but his four years in band have been atypical due to Covid. “As a player, I feel that I didn’t get the chance to grow as much as I should’ve and as a group, we haven’t had the chance to play together too much,” Motwani said. 

The Stone Hill Middle School eighth grade band, led by band directors Brian Morton and Mathew Paznowski, started the evening’s music. With a trio of Christmas songs made up of “Mystery Bay March” by Steve Hodges, “Fury” by David Meyers, and “Abominable Snowman Chase” by Robert W. Smith, the group played energetically, beginning the concert on a festive note. Following their performance, Rock Ridge band director Justin Ratcliff took the stage to introduce the second of three bands that would be performing: the Phoenix Concert Band. 

The Concert Band performed two songs”Forward March” by Paul Murtha and “Forge of the Vulcan” by Michael Sweeney — as Ratcliff conducted them.  Last to take the stage was the Phoenix Wind Ensemble, with a set made up of “Flying Cadets” by Karl King, and “Arabesque” by Samuel Hazo. The band played brilliantly, and their clear passion for playing and amazing blend of different instruments’ notes was the perfect end to this Winter concert.

Unlike Motwani, senior clarinetist Casie Peng saw the most improvement during the pandemic. “I would actually focus on myself for the first time instead of following what people around me were doing,” Peng said. Peng has noticed an increase in confidence and a decrease in nerves since freshman year. “Now I feel a lot calmer,” Peng said.  

The minimal amount of time spent playing together has compelled the older members of the band to become mentors. Junior percussionist Shoumik Bisoi has stepped up as a leader for his section. “There’s not as many percussion players who are coming in, but I was able to step in and be that role model,” Bisoi said. Bisoi’s leadership of the percussion section has made percussion more appealing for upcoming band members. “Now we’re getting a bunch more [members],” Bisoi said.  

Motwani has taken a similar mentorship role in the trumpet section. “The freshmen coming in missed their crucial middle school years, so I was pretty much teaching them how to play properly,” Motwani said. Motwani and the other senior leaders needed to teach the freshmen the fundamentals of band to get them on track to play the challenging pieces required in high school band. “A lot of their technique was wrong and they hadn’t learned enough on a fundamental level to perform pieces such as Arabesque,” Motwani said.   

“Arabesque” is a favorite among band members. The piece is challenging, but its difficulty makes it more appealing. “It’s pretty hard, there are a bunch of runs and 32nd notes all over my paper,” Peng said. Peng has needed to adapt to the difficulty of the piece. “It freaked me out [at first], and after practicing a lot it still freaks me out, but the shock has gone down and I can play it somewhat,” Peng said. 

Some of the seniors aren’t fixating on the winter concert as their “last first” concert. “Honestly, I feel fine, because it’s not the last one just yet,” Peng said. Both Phoenix bands will strive to perfect new songs and improve as a whole before their next show of their talents: their pre-assessment concert on Feb. 9, 2023.