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King School

An independent day school educating students PreK-Grade 12

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Holiday Concerts Wrap Up the Year
Lower School Winter Concert

Momentum toward winter break was marked by gorgeous music rising out of the Performing Arts Center as the annual Winter Holiday Concerts celebrated the many cultures of the King community. The Middle and Upper Schools came together to present both instrumental and choral concerts, which were followed by the Lower School Winter Concert.

Though the concerts infuse traditional music of the holiday season, they also mark progress for students who work throughout the school year, and sometimes over the course of several years, to hone their musical skills. 

“I tried flute in third grade and couldn't get the hang of it,” said Samantha Tillman ’27. “I think that challenge was what drew me to continue playing.”
That was five years ago. Her perseverance paid off and her skills shined during her performance in the instrumental concert. As a Grade 8 student, Samantha and her classmates had the opportunity to play with the Upper School Band for the final song of the concert. The opportunity pushed them to stretch their skills while allowing them to see and play with the different levels of ensembles. 

“I really liked playing with the Upper School,” Samantha said. “It felt great to have a full band. The first time we tried it, I had so much fun, and that feeling stayed through to the end of the concert.”

During the Middle and Upper School Choral Concert, each choir performed selections of their own in addition to combined choral pieces. Likewise, the Middle and Upper School Instrumental Concert featured a mix of ensemble and solo performances. Before the instrumental concert, the upper school guitar class and Project Music students added to the festivities by playing in the PAC lobby.

“Students are constantly working on their musical development, and each grade level ensemble uses their music selections to develop and reinforce specific musical skills,” said Director of Performing Arts Garrett Mendez. “For example, the Sixth Grade Band is made up of students who primarily have never played their instrument, so the music that they are performing is a reflection of the process of how they learn the basics of the instrument while also developing music language and reading skills.” 

For lower school students, music offers a chance to practice collaboration. In music class, they learn how to sing and play as a group. Then they are given opportunities to show their individuality. 

“The objective of the music program in the Lower School is to create tuneful, beautiful, and artful students and life-long music appreciators,” said Lower School Performing Arts teacher Rachel Salem. “The students will graduate from the Lower School with the ability to sing healthfully in-tune, easily feel meter and steady beat, and connect with music on an emotional level.”

King’s middle and upper school music program begins in Grade 6 when students select the instruments they want to play. They have the option of choosing a string instrument, violin, viola, cello, bass, or guitar, or a band instrument, winds, brass, or percussion. The selection dictates the classes to come as string and band instruments advance in two separate but parallel classes. In Grade 7, the two groups come together as they explore playing in ensembles. 

p>Similarly, King’s choirs strike a balance between individual and collaborative work. They practice singing in a group, but the success of the group relies on each individual taking time to learn the language and music of the various pieces.


“In choir, we study and perform a variety of repertoire from different time periods, in different languages, and in different styles,” said Middle School Choral Director Eleanor Bach, who describes choir as a team effort for which individual learning is a key part. “Additionally, students memorize all of their music, which further deepens our work. Concerts are a vital part of our curriculum as they give the students something to work towards.”

Consistent with King’s approach to learning, the musical selections and the concerts themselves are largely student-led.

“We ask for the students' input on music in those genres that they might want to play,” said Mendez. “In that same vein, as music directors, we also try to find a few selections that the students are not familiar with so it can expand their horizons. We look at finding arrangements that fit their current technique level while also giving them a challenge to develop their technique further. It's a balancing act of picking music that challenges them but also is achievable in the number of rehearsals we have.”

Music is part of just about every major event at King, allowing students many opportunities to learn and perform together and to shape events through the music they choose to play. 

“The event may dictate the genre so that music is picked based on the theme of the concert or event,” said Mendez as he underlined the many ways the music program is infused into the King community while supporting and challenging the students. “Homecoming had pep band and rock band music while the winter concert features mostly holiday music.”

The Winter Holiday Concerts were particularly momentous this year.

“This is the first year that students have been able to sing together without the restrictions that the pandemic placed on live performance,” said Bach. “ Rediscovering that sense of community and teamwork has been amazing for students and faculty.”

Mendez concurred. “This is the first time that the Middle School will perform in this concert since 2019,” he said, adding that this has been a big year for middle school musicians as the Grade 7 and 8 bands played at Homecoming. 

“It was the first time that they have ever performed at Homecoming,” said Mendez, adding the Jazz Combo is also realizing some milestones too. “I am looking forward to having the Jazz Combo perform at the Uconn Jazz Festival in February.”

The Winter Holiday Concerts presented a unique opportunity for all of the musicians to perform together.

“The holiday concerts give students the opportunity to showcase their learning and teach them what it means to be a part of a community that is working towards something bigger than just themselves,” said Salem. “Music is an innate human quality that enriches our hearts and minds, and brings us closer together. The students are remarkable. I am so proud of how hard they have worked.”