North Kingstown bands dominate festival in New York City
The North Kingstown High School’s symphonic band and the jazz ensemble performed in a recent competition at the Heritage Festival in New York City. The students brought home two firstplace prizes and major recognition from the judges. But the best part of the entire Manhattan trip had to be “the look on Mrs. Silveira’s face,” according to 16-year-old Emma Vogel, when her students triumphed to win prize after prize.
The 77 students took home enough trophy hardware to sink a small boat.
“Honestly, I was in shock,” said Toni Silveira, North Kingstown’s band director. “We won every category we were in.”
Silveira said the symphonic band and the jazz ensemble both won gold in their groups – schools with 1,300 or more students.
“We were a really big band,” islander Jack Tregenza said.
Those two first-place awards helped North Kingstown win the Sweepstakes Prize, given to the school with the highest total score for two ensembles. The symphonic band also was named best band in a school of any size.
And that wasn’t all.
North Kingstown High won the Adjudicators Choice Award, and two students – Paul Spetrini and Andrew Nicastro – won individual awards. Paul was recognized for his jazz trumpet solo, and Andrew won for jazz and symphonic alto solos.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Silveira said. “I told the kids, ‘The heavens came into alignment.’”
Silveira said she made the students work hard. They practiced January, February and March to master the two contemporary compositions. But she never expected such results.
“I know they’re a good band, but the judges are really tough,” she said. Two festival judges were college professors, and the third was a composer. In the past, North Kingstown has competed at festivals but has never won so overwhelmingly. This time, the two ensembles outplayed 21 other high schools from 13 different states.
The band and the jazz ensemble didn’t make any mistakes during their performances, she said. Nothing went wrong. “Mrs. Silveira was crying,” Emma said.
The ensemble included several islanders: Jess Safford, 17, a senior; Jack Tregenza, Meredith Cote, Rebecca Barchus and Aimee Andrade, all 16 and juniors; and Faith Chadwick and Emma Vogel, both 16 and sophomores.
Jack plays trumpet. Jess, Meredith and Rebecca play flute. Aimee plays clarinet, and Faith plays baritone sax.
“I played for pretty much all of it,” Emma said, who plays the tuba. “It wasn’t difficult.”
The competition lasted five hours. “I really held high standards for them, and they met them,” Silveira said. “A band is such a team effort. There’s no big star. Everyone has to do it together, and they really pulled together as a team.”
This festival was not the biggest competition the North Kingstown High band has entered, she said. For example, they played in a festival before President Barack Obama’s inauguration. But the Heritage Festival represents the best showing for North Kingstown.
“I was nervous,” Rebecca said, “and I was completely shocked that we won award after award after award.”
But according to the students, the weekend wasn’t all hard work.
They played hard, too. The students toured Times Square and ate dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. They also took a boat ride at night after the awards ceremony and enjoyed dinner, dancing and seeing the city lights. Jess said she made new friends.
The students also visited the 9/11 Memorial in Lower Manhattan.
“It was really solemn,” Jack said.
Jack and Aimee also said the awards ceremony was one of the highlights. “I liked that we were up against all these different schools,” Aimee said. “We worked really hard, and it showed how much effort we put into it.”
The students said about 1,800 people from 50 schools attended the evening awards ceremonies and the audience cheered for the winning bands. “It was really exciting,” Emma said. She went on to say the setting at Riverside Church added to the atmosphere. “It’s a really cool building.”
Overall, Jack said, the schools showed great sportsmanship.
“Younger kids should join band,” Meredith said. “We have a really nice high school program, and it’s a lot of fun.”
Dory Vogel, Emma’s mother, said that the judges were surprised Silveira teaches band and directs the jazz ensemble by herself.
“Many schools with bands of this caliber and size have an assistant music teacher,” she said.
Vogel said the jazz ensemble meets at 6:30 a.m. three times a week before the school day starts, and the symphonic band attends 90-minute classes also several times a week. The symphonic band and jazz ensemble are “advanced bands,” according to Silveira, for 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders.
“Both bands are by audition only,” Vogel said, “and many of the band members qualified for the Rhode Island senior All-State band, orchestra and jazz bands.”