Instrumental Music Hosts Aussie Band

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Rachel Jin, Staff Writer

The symphonic band and orchestra hosted 46 members of the Sydney Boys High School band and orchestra at a collaboration concert on April 13. Campolindo was the penultimate stop on the Australian band’s United States tour, following visits to New York and New Orleans before heading south to Los Angeles.

According to band instructor Johnny Johnson, the Sydney group was comprised of three bands. “They had a concert band and 10 string players. Some of the members were also in a jazz band, which they called stage band,” he explained.

“An opportunity was presented to us by the company who was managing their tour; the CEO of that company knows me,” said Johnson. “She was looking around in the Bay Area, because this was the third stop of four on their tour. They asked me if I would be interested in hosting that group, and I said ‘yes.'”

On the day of the concert, the two bands worked together to rehearse for the evening performance. Trumpet player Zoe Portnoff found the international collaboration to be a good experience. She said, “We got to play with them, then we got to watch them perform for us. That was fun.”

Johnson said that this was his first time hosting an international group. “I’d never done that before, so it was really, really cool,” he said. “It was great to have them here to share that experience with us.”

Clarinet player Kim Baxter found the rehearsal challenging. “I think it was hard for everyone to get used to the new amount of people in the band and the new space,” she said. “The rehearsal was just a mixture of everyone working together. It was an interesting experience.”

The performance concluded with “Emperata Overture.”

Though the Campo band had weeks to practice the piece, the Sydney Boys band learned the music and performed it in just a day. According to Portnoff, the performance was the Sydney band’s second time playing the piece, ever. “They actually were sight reading that. They were pretty incredible sight readers. At the concert, that was the second time they played that,” she said.

Johnson explained, “Their director said that it [the piece] may be a bit of a challenge for them. She knew the piece. It’s a standard piece of repertoire for a band. They had never played it before.” He added, “I figured that if we ran through it once, it would be fine. It challenges the skill of any player to play something once and then perform it. It was neat to give them that experience.”

According to Baxter, there was a sense of unfamiliarity at first. “For the Australian kids, it was kind of overwhelming,” she said. “You can tell by their expressions when we first sat down, since it was the first thing we did. So they would sit there and they wouldn’t really talk.” Baxter said that “after a while, they warmed up and became more friendly.”

Though a lot of collaboration happened during rehearsal, much of the interaction happened offstage. According to Johnson, the students had opportunities to socialize over dinner. “We had already rehearsed together, so the introductions had started to happen, and they had started to get to know each other,”  he said. “But by the time it got to dinner, they really started to visit.”

Johnson said that the Australians came bearing gifts. “During dinner, they had gifts for us. They had boomerangs, and little pins, which they called badges, from Australia. I got a set of nice coasters.” The Campolindo band members also received “jars of Vegemite, which is horrible tasting,” according to Johnson. The band members did “Vegemite shots” after dinner.

“It was so funny because they [the Sydney band members] were just eating it straight, and the Australian kids were laughing uproariously at the Campo kids, because it tastes horrible, and they would watch their faces as they ate it,” said Johnson. “I almost couldn’t get them to play the concert because they were having so much fun during dinner.”

Though the rehearsal and concert required a time commitment and left less time for homework and other activities, many players found the experience to be worth it. “It was a such a great opportunity that it was worth missing out on homework once,” said Portnoff.

Baxter agreed: “I think that people were willing to sacrifice the fact that they had a lot of homework and that they were going to be up late in order to make the Australian kids feel welcome. Because how often is it that people come from another country?”

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to do a trip to another country and have that same experience,” said Portnoff.