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Oyster Bay Enterprise Pilot - Schools

Band Returns To Carnegie Hall

On Friday, March 7, the Oyster Bay High School Symphonic Wind Ensemble performed at Carnegie Hall, an experience for many that could be described by only one word: magic.  

The room was filled to capacity. Every empty surface littered with valve oil and reeds, eyes darted across measures of sheet music as hurried exchanges were made between students. The excitement was evident, the anticipation bursting. A flat screen television mounted overhead on the wall showed one constant image, the stage of Carnegie Hall. One of the most prestigious music venues in the world, it would soon be there’s to take. Soon their sounds, the mournful longing of a clarinet, the crystal chime of a young flute, the booming beat of percussion would become ingrained in the walls of a hall that still resonated with the sounds of The New York Philharmonic and The Beatles.

Matthew Sisia, conductor and musical director for the Oyster Bay High School Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band, stood to face his expectant musicians and offered them the words that would become the mantra of their night.  

“This is a night you will remember for the rest of your lives,” he said.

The pride and poise in which Sisia addressed his students spoke volumes of their preparation. They were ready. Since coming together as one group, a combination of the school’s Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band to create the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, the musicians had tirelessly dedicated countless hours in preparation for their greatest moment of musical glory. The group consisted of almost 150 students, brothers and sisters, cousins, friends, and students ranging in 13 to 18 years of age.  

“When my brother went to Carnegie, he made it seem as if it was no big deal, he knew he wanted to be a musician and he played it cool. I knew he was excited, though. For me, whether or not I want to be a musician in my future doesn’t matter. No matter what, this is something I am incredibly proud to be a part of,” said senior and tuba player Jason Halpern.  

For the students, whether this first performance on a professional stage marked the first of many or the end of a long road as a high school musician, it held special meaning, a celebration of accomplishment, a testament to their love of music.  

The band performed a set of four pieces, “Homage to Perotin” by Roger Nelson, “Bali” by Michael Colgrass, “Foundry” by John Mackey and “Irish Tune from County Derry” by Percy Alridge Grainger. Each piece was a unique experience for musicians and audience. With each movement, instruments carried listening ears to the different corners of the world. “Bali,” a hopeful and haunting piece, tells the story of the strength of Bali, a small Indonesian province, its recovery from terrorist attacks, and their hope for a brighter future.

“Every time I played it I couldn’t help but get chills. I felt like I was there with the explosions, like I could feel their pain and their strength,” said freshman and tenor saxophone player Daniel Juhasz.  

It has become a tradition for Sisia to have his bands perform at Carnegie Hall every four years, but in no way is it a given. It is a privilege that must be earned through a commitment to excellence.  

“He was right: that moment when we finished the last note and everyone rose is a moment I will never forget,” said senior and flutist Laura Broffman.