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Posts Tagged ‘Pacific Northwest Ballet’

Milestone—My First Tutored Student’s Last Concert at Garfield High School

Posted by glennled on June 26, 2018

 

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Benjamin Laverde, Principal Tubist, Senior, Garfield Symphony Orchestra, 2018, conducted by Kimberly Roy

 

“Become Your Best!” is the motto I printed on my business card in 2009 when I began private tutoring of trumpet and cornet students. In the nine years I’ve been doing this, the most accomplished musician to whom I ever gave private lessons just graduated from Garfield High School and will attend Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts this fall. He is Benjamin Laverde, tubist.

Benjamin Laverde (R), cornetist, 4th grader, plays in his first public school concert, Lowell Elementary School, Seattle

Ben was my very first student. I taught him to play his cornet when he was a 4th and 5th grader at Lowell Elementary School on Capitol Hill in Seattle. He made All-City Honors Elementary Band in 2011 as a 5th grader (see my blog post of 10 April 2011). Our lessons were fun. Often, for example, when I would arrive at his home in Crown Hill, we would play “Hide and Seek.” I’d walk in the front door and ask his mom, “Where’s Ben?” He would be lying flat, face down, arms tight against his sides, rigid, on the living room couch. She’d say, “I don’t know. Perhaps he’s downstairs.” I’d say, “I’ll just wait here on the couch while you go find him.” At the last instant as I sat down, he would quickly squirm out of the way, and I would say, “Oh, here he is! I found him.” And we would all laugh and get down to business. He was always smart, talented, curious, explorative, and energetic.

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Benjamin Laverde, Senior, Garfield High School, Seattle

From the very beginning, he told me that he ultimately wanted to play tuba. His chance to do so came when he was preparing to enter Hamilton International Middle School (HMIS) in Wallingford as a 6th grader. At a music orientation session in the spring while he was still a 5th grader, he told the HMIS band director, Daniel Rowe, that he wanted to play tuba, so Mr. Rowe gave him a smaller-size tuba to practice that summer. Alas, after two years (2009-2011), I lost my first “trumpet” student. (But he still owns his cornet.)

Ben Tackles the Tuba

Meanwhile, I had picked up Trumpet Student No. 11  who lives in Magnolia and was attending Lawton Elementary School (see my blog post of 14 November 2010). Eventually, he also entered HMIS, and when I attended some of his band concerts, there also was Ben on tuba in the more advanced band. At one such concert in 2014, I learned from his parents that, as an 8th grader in 2013, Ben had made the beginning orchestra of the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra (SYSO) and that Ben would be attending Garfield High School.

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Ben Laverde, Principal Tubist, Garfield Symphony Orchestra, 13 June 2018

Year by year, Ben progressed through SYSO’s system of the four full orchestras which include brass players: Symphonette (Beginning), Debut (Intermediate), Junior (Advanced Intermediate), and finally, while a senior at Garfield, the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra (Flagship) where he was principal tubist. According to the SYSO website (www.syso.org), “The orchestra performs three regular season concerts in Benaroya Hall, home of the Seattle Symphony, and regularly partners with the Pacific Northwest Ballet, the Seattle Opera, regional Broadway musical theater organizations, local choruses, and internationally acclaimed guest artists and conductors.” SYSO was founded in 1942, during World War II. Ben performed in yearly side-by-side concerts with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra for four years (2015-2018).

In 2016, Ben made All-State Concert Band, sponsored by the Washington Music Educators Association. He has studied with the following tuba tutors:

  • 2012-13—Ryan Schultz, current principal tubist of the Pacific Northwest Ballet
  • 2014-15—Chris Olka, former principal tubist of the Seattle Symphony
  • 2016-17—Jon Hill, former Artist in Residence, University of Washington
  • 2018—John DiCesare, current principal tubist Seattle Symphony

Recently, when I asked Ben what had always attracted him to tuba, he said that originally, it was because he liked the Sousaphones which he saw in a marching band. They looked cool, and he liked the sound. Ironically, he’s never played in a marching band. It doesn’t bother him that he almost never gets to play melodies and solos. In fact, for him, playing bass is more fun and less stressful.

Among his most memorable highlights while at Garfield was a trip to New York City in March 2017, when the orchestra performed at Elizabeth High School in New Jersey. Another was performing in May 2018, with the famous Seattle rapper, Macklemore, at the Seattle Symphony’s “Youth. Equity. Access” concert hosted by Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback. A third was when he performed in June 2015, at the benefit, “Canoche, a Night with Robinson Cano & Friends.” Cano is the Seattle Mariners’ All-Star second baseman, and at the dinner were some of Cano’s friends from both the Mariners and New York Yankees, the Seattle Seahawks, and rapper mogul and agent, Jay-Z.

Ben’s Last Garfield Orchestra Concert

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Aadi Lahiri, principal trumpeter, Garfield Symphony Orchestra, played the solos in Handel’s “Music for the Royal Fireworks,” 13 June 2018

On 13 June 2018, as Principal Tubist of the 82-member Garfield Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kimberly Roy, Ben performed in his last school concert—the Graduation Concert. I made it a point to attend and mark this milestone by seeing and hearing my most accomplished former student one final time. I met him, his parents, William and Kara, and his grandparents there. The orchestra, which includes five trumpeters, performed the following challenging pieces splendidly:

  • “Music for the Royal Fireworks” by George Frideric Handel, featuring Aadi Lahiri, trumpeter
  • “Cello Concerto, op. 85” by Edward Elgar, featuring Jonathan Lin, cellist
  • “Concerto in C, op.37” by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, featuring Zofia Sabee, cellist
  • “Symphonic Dances” from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein

Aadi Lahiri, trumpeter, will be attending St. John’s College in the fall, majoring in philosophy and math with a minor in music. St. John’s is one college with two campuses, one in Annapolis, Maryland and one in Santa Fe, New Mexico, both historic state capitals.

Ben’s Future: Clark University

Ben will attend Clark University on an academic scholarship. He says he’s undecided about a degree major, but it seems unlikely to be music. However, his parents say they would not be surprised if Ben finds some way to continue to playing tuba while at Clark.

A liberal-arts based, private non-profit, research university, Clark was founded in 1887. According to its website, it has a student/faculty ratio of 10:1. The average undergraduate class size is 21. The total enrollment of degree-seeking students in 2017 was about 3100. The average high school GPA of its first-year undergraduates (day college) is 3.63. The most popular declared majors (5-year average, including double-majors) are Psychology (17%); and Biology, Economics, Political Science, and Business Management (7% each). Ben is very impressed with Clark’s geography degree program. The Graduate School of Geography at Clark has granted more Ph.D degrees in that field than any other program in the USA. As of May 2017, Clark had about 550 endowment funds with a combined market value of ~$411 million. The percentage of undergraduates who receive some kind of financial aid is 93%. Please see http://www.clarku.edu.

Worchester is the second most populous city (~185,000) in New England, after Boston, which is about 40 miles east.

“Become Your Best!”—has Ben been done it? For now, yes indeed, but forever, no. His adult life is just beginning, and we can all continuously get better until we pass. I’m very proud of him. Viva Ben! Viva La Musique!

Please click on any photo to enlarge it.

 

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The Gershwins’ “Porgy and Bess” Opera at McCaw Hall in Seattle

Posted by glennled on August 15, 2011

George and Ira Gershwin

Porgy and Bess premiered in New York in 1935 during the Great Depression and in Seattle in 1987. My wife and I finally saw it for the first time yesterday in McCaw Hall, home of Seattle Opera. It was my gift to her for her birthday.

Yes, we knew many of the hit songs from this most famous American opera: “Summertime,” “I Loves You, Porgy,” “Bess, You Is My Woman Now,” “I Got Plenty O Nuttin’,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” and “A Woman Is a Sometime Thing.” But no, we had no idea of the content, storyline, and plot. I was simply expecting a love story with some hard times; the ending might be happy or sad, I did not know. This folk/jazz opera was that and much, much more.

I learned that the uncut opera is almost four hours long. This version (including a 30-minute intermission) lasted almost three hours. It is set in Catfish Row in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1935, it was quite radical—an all-black cast using authentic dialogue. It’s based on a 1925 novel, Porgy,by DuBose Heyward. To me, the love story is turned tragic by addiction to sex and drugs. And yet, Bess’ love for the

Ruby Elzy, the original Serena, performed the role more than 800 times.

beggar and congenital cripple, Porgy, would not have happened were it not for her addiction and his disability. He is her means from a dissolute to a decent life; she is his means out of rejection, isolation, and loneliness. The opera is filled with conflicts: striving for good—survival, love, a better life, God and Jesus—and falling into evil—gambling, drinking, racism, promiscuity, prostitution, pimping, drug dealing, cocaine (“happy dust”), abuse, and murder. The ending is ambiguous. For all this, it is said that the show is born from a love of black people.

The star performer was Gordon Hawkins (baritone) as Porgy, paired with Lisa Daltirus (soprano) as Bess. Among my favorites were Angel Blue (soprano) as Clara, Jermaine Smith (tenor) as Sportin’ Life, and Mary Elizabeth Williams (soprano) as Serena.

And how exciting would it be to play in the ~60-piece Seattle Opera Orchestra? That must feel so special and so fun! For Porgy and Bess, there were three trumpeters: Justin Emerich, principal, Vince Green, and Brian Chin. Emerich is former solo/first trumpet with the Canadian Brass and is now a faculty member at the Cornish College of the Arts. Green is on the faculty of Western Washington University and often performs with the Pacific Northwest Ballet, Seattle Opera, and the Seattle Symphony. Chin teaches full-time at Seattle Pacific University and is principal trumpet at the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra.

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