A Band of Dreamers

Music has always been one of the pillars in my life. Over the years, no matter where I am or what happens, music has been a constant. Ever since I first started taking piano lessons when I was four, I’ve loved how music has given me an ability to express my inner thoughts and emotions in ways that nothing else can. To express those things in my head, I learned how to create my own music. Soon, composing became what I loved most, because playing my own music just took me to a different dimension, a connection that was far stronger than when I was playing something someone else wrote.

Coming to Groton, at first I didn’t do any composing. I was in a jazz combo and getting into jazz music as a whole, which was very fun and refreshing, but I just didn’t feel that connection with the music that I’d cherished for so long. Thankfully, with the help of Ms. Lanier, I was able to set up composition lessons with Kenji, who is the director of the jazz band that I’m in now and a talented multi-instrumentalist/composer. With Kenji, I started small, writing a piece for my combo group and a violin/piano duet.

One day near the end of my Second Form year, Kenji informed me that the next thing we’d be working on was a big band piece for the entire jazz ensemble. This task was daunting. I had to arrange a piece for almost twenty different parts, making sure all instruments worked together without clashing. It was a scale of creating music that I’d never experienced before.

Kenji and I worked on the big band piece over the summer, all the way until spring term of my Third Form year, when it was finally done. After almost a year of slow, steady work, I’d completed my first ever big band piece. I was thrilled.

A few days after, we tried to play it in the jazz band, with the goal of playing it at the spring concert. Various problems arose, with the main one being that it just wasn’t ready to be played. The smallest of details manifested as problems, and adjustments had to be made. Simply put, it didn’t sound the way it did in my head.

So it was back to the drawing board. This time, I was discouraged. I’d worked for a year, and this is what I got? But Kenji and I continued to toil throughout the next summer, adding a few touches, making adjustments for our band. At the same time, I’d started a violin sonata, so my attention soon shifted.

That attention shifted right back when Kenji announced to the entire band that we were playing my piece at the upcoming Parents Weekend concert, one of the three main performances of the year. This time, I was confident that my piece was ready. I had named it “Shining” because of the warm, vibrant feeling it gave off, reminding me of the sun shining and the warmth and comfort it spreads. I felt that feeling the first time we played through it, and it was magical. This time, it was right. It wasn’t perfect the first time around, but that’s what practice is for. The important thing is that the feeling of the song was there. I wasn’t necessarily excited because the band was playing the notes that I’d written on the page, but because they’d also captured and conveyed the spirit of the song—my spirit when writing it.

Soon, the day of the concert came around. I was more nervous than I’d ever been at any of our other concerts, simply because my song was being played. I was nervous about what the audience would think about a student composer. Kenji had informed me that a student composition had never been performed by the jazz band before, so I didn’t know what to expect. I was also nervous about what might go wrong during the actual piece, if all the weeks of practice would pay off.

And pay off it did. It was arguably the best take that we’d ever done of the song. It all came together as a beautiful whole (well, at least in my mind), a whole that I had finally completed after a year and a half. Sitting there on the stage, the bright lights blinding my eyes, the thunderous applause deafening my ears, it was almost like a dream.

Kenji had introduced my song. The band was playing my song. The audience was clapping for my song. I felt that connection to the music that had made me fall in with all of this in the first place.

Groton has a way of making any figment of your imagination, any pipe dream come true. I set out with the goal of creating a large-scale big band piece and eventually having it performed by our band. It wasn’t easy, but I got there, with the help of so many of my teachers and peers. In a way, we’re just a band of dreamers, each with our own aspirations, and each playing a role in helping each other’s dreams come true. That is the essence and beauty of our community. That is why I came to Groton.

The jazz band after a successful Parents Weekend concert