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Fall Concert Offers Culminating Moment for Seniors & the Community
Ashley Taube

At the last Monday School meeting before break, Associate Head of School Ryan Pagotto ’97 shared a message with the students gathered in DuBois Theatre, speaking particularly to the seniors in the front row.

“Do not wish this time away,” Mr. Pagotto urged, asking students to appreciate all the opportunities they have during their Blair experience and acknowledge that it will go by all too quickly.

As the students eagerly await their break next week, they will join together Friday evening for a family-style dinner to express their gratitude for this community and attend the Fall Concert to celebrate the amazing talent on stage in Blair’s performing arts department. The Blair Academy Singers, Chamber Choir, Jazz Ensemble, Chamber Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra have prepared a dazzling performance that will commence on Friday, November 17, at 7 p.m. in the Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts, DuBois Theatre.

For many seniors, it has not gone unnoticed that this will be their last Fall Concert performance, and they are thankful to share in the moment with their fellow performers. Arthur Lee ’24 says he is excited to step into the role of concertmaster this year, carrying on a tradition that contributes to Blair’s vibrant community while performing with a group of talented musicians that have grown together in their musical careers. 

“The most gratifying part about being in orchestra over the past few years is improving alongside my peers,” Leo Munasinghe ’24 said. “Playing alongside Arthur—after joining orchestra when we were both new sophomores and progressing together to the top of the Violin 1 Section as seniors—feels like a full circle moment.”

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Leo is most excited to perform “Baba Yetu” by Christopher Tin at Friday’s concert, a song originating from the video game Civilization IV. “The melody, while simple at times, is beautiful in captivating the harmonies between the various sections of the orchestra,” Leo said. “My favorite part is the final chord, where the excitement of the preceding parts of the piece all come together.”

Director of Instrumental Music Jennifer Pagotto is also looking forward to the orchestra sharing “Baba Yetu” as their closing piece. She highlighted the song as Mr. Tin’s best-known work and the recipient of the first Grammy award ever given to a piece of video game music. Other highlights of the concert from Mrs. Pagotto include Jazz Ensemble solos from Khang Nguyen ’26 on piano, Ethan Anthony ’24 on alto saxophone and Michael Mokrov ’27 on guitar. The ensemble will be performing jazz standards, composed and recorded by several iconic musicians throughout jazz history, and each features a distinct style and groove. Mrs. Pagotto reflects on the Fall Concert as a wonderful time for the community to applaud the culmination of the hard work student-performers committed to this semester.

Director of Vocal Music Ryan Manni echoes Mrs. Pagotto’s sentiments about the concert, sharing his enthusiasm for his choir students’ repertoire this year. Their catalog features a number of pieces from television, film and stage, including the “Game of Thrones Theme” performed by the Blair Academy Singers and “James Bond Theme” performed by the Chamber Choir.

“I am sure that our community will enjoy familiar music from films and TV shows that we prepared for them,” Ksenia Burdiuzha ’24 shared. “I am really excited to perform ‘The Skye Boat Song’ with a high-voice ensemble because of its inherent richness.

Music selection aside, Ksenia has enjoyed her three years singing at Blair because of the incredibly talented and supportive community. “I want to say thank you to Mr. Manni for all the work that he is doing. He is the one who inspires everyone to work hard every day,” Ksenia added. 

That sense of community and respect for their director is felt by both the vocal and instrumental students performing Friday night, according to Leo. “A highlight of being in the orchestra is when a new piece comes together after having spent the time learning it,” he explained. “The expression on Mrs. Pagotto's face after the first time of playing the piece the entire way through without any flaws is felt throughout the entire orchestra; her gaze is met with the excitement on each and every player’s face.”

To experience the Fall Concert live on Friday, visit www.blair.edu/2023-fall-concert at 7 p.m. to watch the livestream. A recording will be available and posted to Blair’s Vimeo account after the event.
 

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