Bicentennial celebration concert will feature marches, patriotic tunes, new compositions

Roll over, Beethoven … Tchaikovsky made the news playing there. So did Leonard Bernstein, John Philip Sousa, Gustav Mahler, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Judy Garland, not to mention the Beatles, T. Rex, the Kinks, Bruce Springsteen and Jay-Z.

The “there” is New York City’s Carnegie Hall, and Norwich University’s Regimental Band is about to join the august list of musicians that have played this world-famous venue in New York City. And flutist and piccolo player Cyleigh Gaynor, who grew up far from New York in Arizona, could hardly wait.

“Growing up in Tucson, Carnegie Hall was something people talked about but wasn’t like a reality,” Gaynor, a junior mechanical engineering major, said at a Feb. 24 rehearsal. “So, for me, being up here, being able to perform is a huge dream come true as a musician.

“I’ve been playing since I was 5 years old,” she said, “and I’ve always heard about Carnegie Hall, but I’ve never actually been there.”

“It’s expected that everyone is performing at an extremely high level. … I personally feel like I have to be nailing every note and sounding better than I’ve ever sounded.”Daniel Freitag ’20, Norwich University Regimental Band musician

Although the aforementioned headliners played Carnegie Hall’s largest space, the 2,840-seat Isaac Stern Auditorium, the Regimental Band’s bicentennial concert, at 7:30 p.m. March 12, will be in the more intimate, and underground, Zankel Hall, which seats 599 people and opened in its current configuration in 2003. 

Col. Todd Edwards, assistant commandant of Norwich’s Corps of Cadets and the Regimental Band’s director, said the concert, an extended celebration of the band, and the university’s 200th birthday, was four years in the making. 

“We brainstormed places we could celebrate (the band’s bicentennial) and one of the cadets suggested we try playing Carnegie Hall,” he said.

Musicians in Norwich University’s Regimental Band said they practiced longer and harder in preparation for their March 12, 2020, concerts in New York City’s Carnegie Hall. (Photo by Matthew Crowley.)

The axiom says getting to Carnegie Hall requires practice, practice, practice, which certainly happened (more on that shortly). But Edwards said it also requires passing the venue’s screening process, which lasted a year and a half and included sending videos and recordings. The concert was approved in December 2018.

At Carnegie Hall, the Regimental Band will perform a two-hour concert featuring light classical selections, traditional marches (including Franz von Suppé’s “Light Cavalry Overture”), jazz and patriotic medleys and will debut two new compositions written especially for it by Michael Sweeney and Carly Golladay. 

Sweeney directs band publications for Hal Leonard LLC in Milwaukee, one of the world’s largest printed-music publishers. Hal Leonard LLC has published more than 500 of Sweeney’s compositions and arrangements since Sweeney joined the company in 1982.

Golladay is a composer, pianist, and music educator; she teaches music at Our Lady of the Holy Souls Catholic School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Her compositions have been performed nationwide; her 2009 string quartet composition Labyrinth (2009) was performed by the Avalon String Quartet at the Musica Viva Festival in Blacksburg, Virginia.

The band’s musicians said they’ve been practicing longer in their twice-a-week rehearsals with Edwards and by themselves, in the band room or rehearsal rooms in White Chapel’s cellar. (Rules prohibit practicing in their dorms.) They wanted to be ready both for the Carnegie Hall concert and for any chances to play, should they arise, during a postconcert swing through Washington, D.C.

Daniel Ambrose, a clarinetist and cadet, said sections of the band had met for extra practice and was sending in recordings of practice to their band section leaders to show their effort and progress.

“The whole idea is to make sure everything sounds good,” he said, “because Carnegie can be unforgiving. You can hear everything in there; it’s got great acoustics.”

Performing at their peak

Daniel Freitag, a trumpeter and cadet, said he and his bandmates (not to mention his parents) have been elated to have landed the concert. They knew they’d have to sound their best, he said. 

“We knew it was a distinct honor … (and) the band was ready to get to it,” Freitag, a senior political science and history major, said at the Feb. 24 rehearsal, “because it’s a lot of work to prepare for something like this.

Musicians in Norwich University’s Regimental Band said they feel as if their diligent rehearsal is paying off and they’ll play at their peak during the March 12, 2020, concert at New York City’s Carnegie Hall. (Photo by Matthew Crowley.)

Freitag, who will perform a solo (no pressure, really), will play with many parents in the audience. His mother will come from Alabama for the concert just as Gaynor’s father will come from Arizona, and Ambrose’s parents will come from New Hampshire. He said he and his bandmates will be ready.

“It’s expected that everyone is performing at an extremely high level. … I personally feel like I have to be nailing every note and sounding better than I’ve ever sounded,” he said. “Just hammer it out. Keep at it, till it gets stuck in your head.”

Ambrose, a senior cybersecurity major and cadet, said the Carnegie concert was a gratifying capstone to four years with the band.

“(Band business has) been kind of like everything I do,” he said, “and to finally to have something that recognizes that, that we can all seek to achieve, it’s a pretty high goal.”

Over the years, the Regimental Band has performed in inaugural parades for seven U.S. presidents — John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump — the Patriots’ Day parade in Lexington, Massachusetts, and New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. Edwards said he’s glad the band will add Carnegie Hall.

“For a musician, there’s no greater accolade,” he said. “They’re stepping up and they’re ready to perform. They’re going to do a wonderful show.” 

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