Bronxville High School Students Demonstrate an Ear for Excellence
A love of music is only the beginning of a true musician’s journey. Music competency is a craft that takes practice, persistence, precision, and passion. At Bronxville High School, two seniors Andrew Jensen and Dash Kwan earned the distinguished honor of being selected to represent the Bronxville School as performers in this year’s New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) All-State concert and conference in Rochester, NY on December 1-4. Aidan McBride (French horn) has been selected as an alternate.
NYSSMA is an organization that advocates for school music education programs across the state. Every spring, NYSSMA auditions take place, with over 7,000 student musicians being evaluated on a graded solo piece, sight reading, and scales. Students who achieve a 100 on their performance evaluation are typically selected for seats in eight different ensembles, conducted by well-known guest conductors, at the NYSSMA Winter Conference held at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music.
The students dedicate a significant amount of time preparing for the NYSSMA Level VI solo, which must be selected from among the repertoire lists in the current NYSSMA manual. Last spring, over 6,500 sophomores and juniors from across the state of New York prepared for All-State evaluations. The highest ranking students from each county are recommended.
“These students were selected by a competitive audition that took place last May at the NYSSMA adjudication festival. Thousands of students auditioned at this prestigious event in the hope of being selected for an All-State Ensemble. Congratulations to Dashiell Kwan, Andrew Jensen, and Aidan McBride (alternate) who were selected to participate in All-State Symphonic Orchestra,” said Bronxville’s Middle and High School Band Director Uma Karkala.
Andrew Jensen (viola) and Dash Kwan (trumpet) both achieved perfect scores on their auditions. Andrew credits the exposure to many different types of music for preparing him for his NYSSMA All State Level VI solo. “Playing and practicing different types of music is where you learn and grow the most,” said Andrew. “I have learned from each type and that has allowed me to hone the necessary skills needed for each one.”
Andrew’s prefered style of music is from the Romantic era; his favorite composers include Tchaikovsky and Brahms. For Dash, it’s classical and jazz that he enjoys the most, and the composers who inspire him are Mahler and Clifford Brown.
On a more personal note, having a passion for music helped both Andrew and Dash transition to Bronxville High School as new students last year. They found music allowed a connection to other students as well as their teachers.
Andrew and Dash’s commitment to music is reflected in their studies both inside and outside the school. Andrew studies at the Manhattan School of Music and performs with the Andromeda Quartet, a chamber music group from the New York Youth Symphony Chamber program. Dash studies at Juilliard Pre-College, a comprehensive conservatory-style music program for students 8–18 years old.
While some may wonder if this dedication to music education makes it more difficult to achieve in other academic areas, the duo have found the opposite. “Staying committed to practicing - and having the discipline to do so - has taught me a lot and helped me to stay focused in other areas of education,” said Dash.
Three other Bronxville High School students will be performing at the NYSSMA Area All-State ensembles on Saturday, November 5th at White Plains High School. Bronxville junior Ria Mueller (cello) and senior Saya Mueller (violin), will perform with the orchestra; Senior Molly Bishop (soprano) will perform with the mixed chorus.
Pamela Simpson, Choral Director for grades 6-12 and K-12 Performing Arts Curriculum Leader, is thrilled that Bronxville’s music students are being recognized for their hard work and dedication with the opportunity to perform in the NYSSMA All-State and Area All-State concerts. “For these students to have reached this level of achievement, after the challenges in music education during the past two years, is astounding and well-deserved,” said Ms. Simpson.