—Exploring instrumental music and its presence in the local area—
The searing heat of the vast plains rises from the high-pitched E of the violin followed by the sweet, rich sounds of clarinets calling out, beginning the journey of a Caravan in The Northern Neck Orchestra’s performance of Alexander Borodin’s “In the Steppes of Central Asia.”
At a nearby parade, eager onlookers line both sides of the street as thunderous music erupts from the drum line and brass instruments of the Northumberland County marching band.
Not far away in Burgess, students both young and old work closely with Celeste Gates as she helps them hone their skills on the guitar, piano and several other instruments through both one-on-one and group instruction.
Whether it’s in the schools, at someone’s studio or through a community-assembled organization, the Northern Neck is alive with the sound of music to both those who play it and those who simply enjoy it.
And normally, opportunities for creating that sound begin in the schools.
At Northumberland Middle and High Schools, Band Director Walt Mallorie said he has enjoyed watching several of his students grow and develop as musicians from when they first take the class in 6th grade to when they graduate.
From his initial arrival at the high school 10 years ago, Mallorie said the high school program has slowly built up membership until at times it was reaching 50 students.
Mallorie oversees the high school marching band, which over the years has been able to perform at football games, march in Christmas Parades in Richmond, travel to Winchester for the Apple Blossom Festival and even join over 400 students from across the county in performing during the halftime show of the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta. This year, they will have the opportunity to march with NATO-themed floats in Norfolk’s Parade of Nations.
Mallorie called the marching band the community’s most visible music organization, as people are able to come see them at local parades from Urbanna and Kilmarnock to Northumberland and Warsaw.
Northumberland students also take part in Mallorie’s symphonic band, which along with the marching band are eligible for participation in area and district bands.
Both the district and area options allow students to play with students from other schools over a musically intense weekend of rehearsals that conclude in a Saturday afternoon concert.
While District Band offers students the chance to compete with students who have a steady diet of music lessons outside of their school, Area Band, which this year is being hosted by Northumberland High School, features students from similar-sized programs, thereby giving them a better chance of making that band, Mallorie said.
“The kids who want to work hard do it, and that’s one of the opportunities they have to go do something special…something that’s over and above just the school band,” he added.
But students aren’t just limited to programs at their high school—the Northern Neck Orchestra also serves as a venue where young serious and committed players can perform alongside adult musicians from the local area.
-Pick up the Jan. 29 issue of the Northumberland Echo to read the full story!