The Blair community came together on November 16 to listen to all-new repertoire performed by the Jazz Ensemble, Singers, Chamber Choir, Chamber Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra. The Fall Concert featured traditional and contemporary pieces ranging from film scores to jazz, including songs from the recent film The Greatest Showman, a “bluesy” version of Richard Rodgers’ “My Funny Valentine,” Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” Thad Jones’ “A Child is Born” and numbers from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story (in honor of the composer/conductor’s 100th birthday).
“Our returning students are building on the skills they honed during their last international tour, which was a huge undertaking that challenged them to learn music thoroughly,” said Performing Arts Department Chair and Director of Instrumental Music Jennifer Pagotto. “They are bringing that experience to this year’s repertoire. We also have a number of new students in our ensembles, and they bring new energy and musical talent. The combination gives our groups good chemistry, and I am excited for our community to hear really fun, engaging classics, as well as contemporary gems.”
This year, the concert featured a number of soloists from within Blair’s ensembles, in addition to some guest performers, such as guitar player and Blair language teacher Chris Sheppard and banjo player Patrick Tipton (father of Siena ’18 and Oliver ’21).
Noting that a number of seniors graduated from the ensembles in 2018, Mrs. Pagotto commended members of the class of 2019 for stepping up and taking over leadership roles so seamlessly. “They learned a lot from last year’s really talented class and have done an impressive job of making their musical mark,” she said. “Our newer students are all quite capable musicians who want to learn from the upperclassmen, and they take cues really well from older musicians.”
Calling all of the piecesperformed at this year’s concert “fantastic,” Alexander Gieson ’19 was excited to see how the different ensembles will grow over the course of the 2018-2019 school year. “As a four-year percussionist at Blair, I’ve played with so many different talented musicians and explored a wide variety of pieces,” he said. “One thing I love about percussion is how many different instruments I get to play. I also find Mrs. Pagotto’s enthusiastic attitude incredibly inspiring. Whether it be early on a Monday morning or during performance rehearsals at the end of a long day, she always puts on a smile.”
Being part of the Orchestra—which he calls Blair’s “largest class”—has significantly improved Alex’s work ethic and enhanced his overall Blair experience, allowing him to get to know many people during the group’s four weekly rehearsals. “Orchestra is a nice break from the class day because it is a completely different kind of thinking,” he explained. “Playing an instrument is far different than solving equations or writing essays, and I like to have that variety in my schedule.”
Four-year violinist Junhan Park ’19 also looked forward to showcasing the groups’ hard work with his close friends and fellow musicians on November 16. Reflecting on his time at Blair, Junhan says he appreciates how much being part of the Orchestra has allowed him to grow and become more skilled, whether through regular campus rehearsals or once-in-a-lifetime trips such as last year’s performance tour of England. “All four years of playing with Mrs. Pagotto have helped me become a better violinist and person,” he said. “She and Mr. Manni [Blair’s director of vocal music] are always willing to support me, on and off the stage.”
To view the full Fall Concert, click below: