Bronxville News

Students playing music.
Bronxville, NY

The talented members of the Bronxville High School band have been preparing to debut a remarkable piece of music, which was crafted by a professional composer specifically for them, during their spring concert on April 17. 

Entitled “The Roaring Twenties,” the medley of popular jazz tunes from the 1920s pays homage to the school’s rich history, founded in 1922. Crafted by composer Carl Strommen, the unique composition presented a challenge to adapt jazz styling to an ensemble of 40 students. 

“Writing a jazz chart for a big band is easy, but to make that transfer to a concert band, is extremely difficult,” band director Uma Karkala said. “Everything is different – tone, balance, phrasing, intonation. It’s a lot of fun but a lot of listening and hard work goes into it making it sound correct. But being able to do this makes it unique and stand out.”

Strommen’s approach to the composition ensures that it showcased the talents of the students and provides an opportunity for concert bands worldwide to experience it by purchasing and playing the piece. Junior Lia Nacey, who has been playing the flute since fourth grade, expressed her pride in being a part of the collaboration. She said it’s an honor to have a composer tailor a piece specifically for her and her classmates who have made a solid commitment to the band program. 

“What makes Mr. Strommen’s arrangement so special is that he arranged these songs specifically based on the Bronxville band program’s strong points,” Nacey said. “Our band has a solid flute section and a large brass section this year, so Mr. Strommen wrote the medley to highlight these instruments. It’s like our very own musical signature.” 

She described her favorite part of the piece to be “My Melancholy Baby,” which is the ballad in the middle of the medley that stands out as the singular slow, gentle piece, counterbalancing the rest of the piece. 

“A lot of the songs in ‘Roaring Twenties’ have a very energetic punch to them, which is something our band can pull off exceptionally well,” Nacey said. “‘My Melancholy Baby’ really shows off our versatility. We can be excited and expressive, but we can also show more reservation and quiet.”

The students will premiere “The Roaring Twenties” on April 17 at 7 p.m. in the auditorium. The experience was made possible thanks to a generous grant from the Bronxville School Foundation.