THHS Wind Ensemble wins first place at Music in the Parks competition

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Last Friday, the THHS Wind Ensemble came back from their Washington D.C. Wind Ensemble trip, winning first place at the Music in the Parks high school concert band concert at Six Flags America. After enjoying time sightseeing D.C.’s tourist attractions on Thursday, June 2, they headed to James Hubert Blake High School in Silver Spring, MD for the competition before going to Six Flags the next day. 

Wind ensemble director and music teacher Kevin Heathwood expressed his belief that the Music in the Parks achievement was a significant step for his musicians and their growth. “We got silver at NYSSMA and I know the students have worked very hard, but being that we got first place, I think that put the cap on the year that they were hoping for.” Mr. Heathwood also believes the wind ensemble’s passion and increased confidence in their abilities is their “recipe for greatness.”

Although his stint as a student teacher at THHS is officially over, Mr. Lee joined the THHS Wind Ensemble in their trip to Washington D.C. 

In response to being invited, Mr. Carlin Lee jokingly started by saying, “when you are in my position of having the most good natured, funny, and talented students, how could you say no to going on a bus ride to D.C. for a band competition with some visits to cultural centers and amusement parks sprinkled in?”

However, in a more serious tone, he said, “I also want to make sure my students know that I came to Townsend Harris to give everything I possibly could. Staying past my placement to do the concerts and go on this band trip, is how I’m telling them that I’m here for whatever they need… I’m most looking forward to this band trip being the first of many trips from the Townsend Harris High School Bands, with the future holding possibilities for internationally won gold medals, lifelong memories, and artistic achievement and fulfillment for my students.”

Prior to the Washington D.C. trip, Mr. Heathwood reflected on his goals and aspirations for the Wind Ensemble and overall THHS music program. He said, “maybe next year we’ll go someplace a little bit further and further and further. The ultimate goal is to go international. We’re gonna start with this and then we’ll see how it goes. And then next year I wanna bring the whole music department and then go somewhere and then just make that a tradition.“

Alyse Sayed, president of the wind ensemble, discussed the challenges of preparing for the trip, but ultimately shared a similar sentiment, and said, “[t]his trip is a culmination of not only many months of fundraising and rehearsing, but it will make up for the trip we were planning to take to Orlando my sophomore year when the pandemic hit. This trip is a reward for all of our years of commitment and dedication. Especially for the seniors in the Wind Ensemble, this trip is our final moment to connect and create memories with the ensemble.”

Wind Ensemble Vice President and Classic editor senior Matthew Merino expressed a similar sentiment. He reflected on the significance of this trip on the school’s band program given all the effort it took to make it possible. He said, “Coming from the remote year not having fundraised since March 2020, we can now say that this trip marks the comeback of the band program here at Townsend Harris. We have definitely come a long way from selling iced coffee from a pushcart in the lobby three years ago. I remember that the first trip plan fell through [in 2019], and obviously with Orlando [in 2020] with the last-minute COVID emergency cancellation, but we finally made the trip happen.”

French horn player Matthew Babayev said, “as a senior it is a nice way to celebrate my time in band with a culminating trip where we combine music and explore new terrain. We have fostered a community here at Wind Ensemble, so a trip to celebrate our accomplishments this past year is well-deserved and I am very excited to make the most out of this trip.”

In agreement with Matthew Babayev, Kristi Kim shared her elation with the trip, explaining that “it is my very first music festival; I am used to close concerts and solo pieces.” As a result of quarantine and not being able to do live concerts, she went on to add that she enjoyed these events because “even if it is nerve wracking to be there in person, it adds to the experience.”

“In regards to the trip, it was exceptionally amazing, sweetening the end of our senior year by our first place finish at the festival. Other than the downpour on the National Mall [in Washington D.C.], everything else was enjoyable at every moment, especially when you are staying with a tight-knit group of not only fellow band members, but also newly made friends. From walking across the National Mall to riding roller coasters at the amusement park on the last day, it was an unforgettable experience to remember for a lifetime. Yes, I’ve been to Washington D.C. countless times in the past, but this one has a special place in our hearts because of the numerous friendships that we have made in the process,” he added.

Matthew Merino credited the success of the trip and his experience in Wind Ensemble to the guidance of previous THHS musicians. He said, “I owe a debt of gratitude to my mentors in the band program, including the band leadership of the class of 2020, namely alumni Kristina Chang, India Lott, Carolina Narvaez, & Kayla Seepersad, for inspiring us to move forward to get to this point.”

“I just hope for success. I hope to create memories. I hope to just make it something that the students will never forget and that other students in the school hear about and want to be a part of and be like, I want to be in the Wind Ensemble,” Mr. Heathwood said.

Photo courtesy of THHS Wind Ensemble