Sara Levy’s World


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Sara Levy

Sara Levy

Born over a cup of coffee after a chance meeting of two Rutgers professors from different departments, a two-day symposium in New Brunswick, NJ on the life and legacy of one of eighteenth-century Berlin’s most influential Jewish women will open Monday, 29 September 2014. “Sara Levy’s World: Music, Gender, and Judaism in Enlightenment Berlin” will celebrate a salonnière and committed Jew who was a seminal figure at the beginning of the Jewish Enlightenment in Germany.

The great-aunt of Felix Mendelssohn, Sara Itzig Levy (1761-1854) performed works by Bach and his sons, hosted weekly salons and recitals, commissioned cutting-edge music, and assembled a large and noted music manuscript collection. Often treated as a footnote, it turns out that Levy is in some ways an “essential figure in the history of German music,” said Rebecca Cypess, co-planner of the symposium and assistant professor of music at Rutgers’ Mason Gross School of the Arts. “She is the link that kept the tradition of J. S. Bach alive.”

Levy took music lessons from Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach’s eldest son, known as a virtuosic composer and improviser; W. F. Bach even wrote a song for Levy that he gave to her at her wedding, said Cypess.

The symposium will open with an evening concert featuring music owned and played by Sara Levy and continues with a symposium Tuesday that will intersperse academic talks with a reading of a satirical play from the period and a performance of a cantata by C. P. E. Bach.

The era in which Levy lived was “tumultuous,” said Nancy Sinkoff, Cypess’s co-organizer. It was “a time of lots of possibilities and potential, a remixing of the social and cultural boundaries that had existed for centuries in Europe,” said Sinkoff, who is associate professor of Jewish studies and history at Rutgers and director of the university’s Center for European Studies. “The fact that there were such dramatic changes at this moment allowed her to play such an important role in transforming her social, cultural, and religious landscape.”

Each scholar brings to bear on Sara Levy her own disciplinary training: Cypess, her expertise in musical performance and music history, and Sinkoff, her knowledge of Jewish and European history.

Sinkoff explained that the late eighteenth century was the moment of the onset of modernity, particularly for Jews in Western Europe and more specifically in Berlin, the court city of the Prussian empire. “Sara Levy is an extraordinary figure of the period about whom not enough is known,” she said. “It is an opportunity to ask a whole series of new questions and revisit old questions about Jews and Christians, aesthetics, music, gender, antisemitism, modernity, and secularization in a symposium devoted to the whole person of Sara Levy.”

They will not be exploring just Levy’s contribution to music or where she fit in as a Jewish woman, but asking questions that cross disciplinary boundaries: How did her identity as a Jew affect how she studied and made music? How did her musical activities affect how she interacted with other Jewish women and men in her circle?

Levy’s entry into the cultural and social circles of the non-Jewish German elite while remaining fully committed to and invested in her Jewish life requires a rethinking of the way historians conceived of Jewish women’s participation in the Enlightenment, said Sinkoff. “Until now much of the work focused on women who left Judaism,” she said.

The symposium will also cast light on some of the culture wars familiar today, which Sinkoff suggested began in the late eighteenth century. “The entry of Jews into European society, the ability to negotiate as an individual outside of communal boundaries sets in motion many complicated issues about identity that are still being worked out today,” she said.

Michele AlperinNew Jersey Jewish News

2014 NextNOW Fest


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Playing Johann Sebastian Joust

Playing Johann Sebastian Joust

The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center [at the University of Maryland in College Park] is kicking off its season with four days of fun and frolic. The NextNOW Fest is asking its audiences to discover the next big thing in small, intimate and surprising environments: sonic massages, subway buskers, Terptastic jazz, deep theatre for short attention spans, dance mysteries, late-night art explosions, food frolics, an arts tailgate, and toast . . . and then something curious . . . and then . . .

On Thursday, 11 September 2014, between 7 and 10pm, everyone is invited to gather on the Front Plaza of “The Clarice” to play Johann Sebastian Joust. During the digital game, up to seven participants with motion controllers will compete to the sound of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos (BWV 1046-51). When the music speeds up, things will get frantic! Go slow-mo, though, when the music is slow.

NextNOW will run Thursday through Sunday with a costume sale, a performing arts library sale and more. Most events are free. All events are freeing.

2014 NextNOW Fest

A Pinot Noir with Notes of Bach


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DeMorgenzon Estate in the Western Cape

DeMorgenzon Estate in the Western Cape

In a gentle valley near Stellenbosch in the Western Cape [South Africa], the vineyards at DeMorgenzon estate are serenaded by Baroque and early classical music day and night, all year round. And once the grapes are harvested, the maturing wine gets the same treatment in the cellar.

Winemaker and general manager Carl van der Merwe smiles when asked whether he is seen in the same light as Britain’s Prince Charles, who was scorned for admitting that he talks to his plants to encourage their growth. “We have a lot of people who are very skeptical about what we are doing and why we’re doing it, particularly neighbors” he says. But he is a firm supporter of the musical approach adopted by the owners of the estate, prominent businesswoman Wendy Appelbaum and her music-loving husband Hylton, who founded Classic FM radio in South Africa.

The Appelbaums bought the estate in 2003 and introduced music in 2009, following in the footsteps of farmers who have serenaded everything from cows to pigs in an attempt to improve production and quality.

While there was no scientific proof of music’s effects on wine, they thought there was enough evidence of the positive influence of dulcet sound to try to combine their love of both. “We do things in life sometimes because we believe in them and often we find out later that there was a very strong scientific reason why those things worked,” Van der Merwe says.

So if wine and song go together in more ways than one, why does it have to be Baroque rather than rock? “Well, we only use Baroque and classical for the reason that those two have mathematical rhythm and those sound waves have been proven to have a positive effect on natural life,” he says.

Van der Merwe, 37, is no wild-eyed evangelist trying to spread a message about music and plants, but has a modest belief that the music works – helped along by the terroir and, of course, his winemaking skills. He says he sees a difference the music makes through the slower and more regulated growth patterns on the vines where it is focused – a trial block of four hectares out of the fifty-five hectares under vines on the estate. “The Syrah that comes from here is very different to anywhere else on the property and it’s much more pronounced in terms of flavor, has smoother tannins and tends to have slightly lower alcohol and really is just a much more balanced, much more approachable wine,” he says.

Ten regularly spaced loudspeakers carry the music of Bach and Mozart, among many others, across the vineyards, producing a surreal effect in the quiet valley. Van der Merwe points out that the farm is like an amphitheatre scooped from the mountains, and the music’s influence extends the length and breadth of the estate. “It’s not so much about the audible music that we can hear, it’s more about sound waves,” he says.

The music also affects the farm workers, of course, though Van der Merwe says wryly that many seem to prefer their own playlists on their mobile phones. But one of the local women in a pruning team stated,  “We like the music. It’s nice to work here because it lifts us up and sometimes you feel like dancing.” Spring is approaching in the Cape, and the team of pruners is moving slowly through the vineyard, preparing it for the next growing season.

The estate has a strong focus on Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay, but also produces classic reds Syrah and Pinot Noir. In South Africa the award-winning wines are sold in the mid-to-upper price range, retailing from about R75 up to R250 a bottle. DeMorgenzon exports to the United States and to Europe, where the wines sell from about 10 euros to 18 euros.

Between the vineyard and the retailer, however, the wine matures in oak barrels while “listening” to the same music as the vines it came from. Surely, Van der Merwe is asked, even if one accepts that a life form like a plant can respond to music, it is a bit much to expect the same of a liquid? Happily, he points out that “wine is alive with various bacteria, and the fermentation process itself is done by living organisms”.

Perhaps in time, if the idea catches on, wine critics will be telling us to look out not only for “notes of berry and mushroom” in our glass of red or white, but “notes of Bach and Mozart” as well.

Luxemburger Wort

Edward Teller Plays Bach


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Edward Teller and his wife Mici

Edward Teller and his wife Mici

Late at night, when he is not in his lab
Building the world’s first atomic bomb,
Dr. Edward Teller is back in his barracks.
He thinks through his fingers
As he pedals with his fake right foot,
Practicing and playing on the century-old Steinway
He had shipped to the high New Mexico desert.

The physicist’s taste runs to Mozart and Beethoven.
But tonight he is working on Prelude and Fugue no. 8
In E flat minor and D sharp minor,
from Book I of Johann Sebastian Bach’s
The Well-Tempered Clavier.

Since childhood, his mind has been held captive
By only two things: the music of mathematics
And the mathematics of music.

This slow, melodious and mournful
Music, he finds, is solidly, stolidly built.
The paired-up pieces match,
Mirror-like in their linkage
Like fission and fusion,
Like Bombs A and H.

Bach and bombs seem compatibly ingenious,
Old equations for a new beauty.
He likes how the main melody at the core
Radiates and grows, outward and inward,
Down and up, across treble and bass.
The multiple voices echo in a chain reaction of sound,
Like the counterpoint of nuclei and electrons,
And the dialogue of chalkboard equations.

The transparent thickness of Baroque beauty
Suits his scientific bent and emotional need,
His taste for a stately and elegant destruction
In which he can lose himself and others.

He knows that the two pieces remain something of a mystery,
The only ones Bach wrote in those keys,
Obscure keys that no one used back then.
But rarity equals a kind of originality
and that attracts Teller, who is still thinking up
The Super,” his own word for an even
more powerful thermonuclear device.

That is what he now calls apocalyptic energy,
When he is not playing Bach.

And especially when he is.

Jacob Stockinger

Frans Brüggen (1934-2014)


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Frans Brüggen in 1978

Frans Brüggen in 1978

Frans Brüggen, a Dutch pioneer of the early music movement, a co-founder and conductor of the influential Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century, and a virtuoso recorder player who in his youth became (literally) a poster boy for the instrument, died on 13 August 2104 13 in Amsterdam. He was seventy-nine.

His death was confirmed by Sieuwert A. Verster, who founded the ensemble with Mr. Brüggen in 1981.

Their period instrument orchestra was one of the first ensembles to adopt a historically informed method of performance, in which the lush sound, vibrato-heavy string playing and sometimes ponderous tempos that were then standard were abandoned for a buoyant, leaner sound with less vibrato.

Unlike other period ensembles, the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century has not strayed too far from its original focus; it has ventured into Mendelssohn, Schubert and Chopin, but not later romantics like Brahms.

Mr. Brüggen had a particular affinity for conducting Beethoven, releasing two recordings of the complete symphonies and leading the “Eroica” Symphony more than one hundred times.

Reviewing a 2007 performance of two Schubert symphonies and Beethoven’s Symphony no. 9 during one of the orchestra’s infrequent appearances in New York, Allan Kozinn wrote in The New York Times that “by keeping the brass choirs in the foreground sounding punchy in the Ninth, he tapped a vein of both novelty and visceral excitement that gave these familiar works a welcome freshness.”

The orchestra (a part-time group that tours several times a year and regularly releases recordings) was founded with an unusually egalitarian pay plan. After expenses, profits are divided equally among musicians and conductor.

The orchestra recruits its members through word of mouth and never holds auditions. “We are a bit like the Rolling Stones,” Mr. Verster said in a phone interview, “always the same people.” The orchestra intends to continue to perform with guest conductors, he added.

As a guest conductor himself, Mr. Brüggen worked with both Baroque and modern ensembles, including the London-based Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Amsterdam-based Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra – bringing a period practice aesthetic to his interpretations.

Mr. Brüggen had a rebellious streak and appreciated counterculture movements, both in and out of musical circles. In 1969 he supported what became known as the “Notenkrakers” (“Nutcrackers”) action, in which conservatory students and composers, unhappy with the Concertgebouw Orchestra’s conservative programming and what they saw as its elitism, disrupted a performance in Amsterdam with noisemakers and a megaphone.

Mr. Brüggen, who in 1972 founded an avant-garde recorder trio called Sour Cream, began his career as a recorder soloist and chamber musician. He elevated the instrument to star status with his brilliant, idiosyncratic approach. Some early albums came along with a poster of him, a tousle-haired young virtuoso.

His performances were physically and aesthetically distinctive: He played while sitting cross-legged and infused his interpretations with a flexible rubato that rendered the music sensually expressive.

Early video recordings highlight his beautiful tone, remarkable technique and soulful artistry, often heard in collaboration with eminent musicians like the Dutch keyboard player and conductor Gustav Leonhardt.

Mr. Brüggen, who also played the flute professionally, played a wide range of repertoire and became a champion of contemporary composers; Luciano Berio and Louis Andriessen were among those who dedicated works to him. He performed as recorder soloist with his orchestra in its early days but stopped after his fiftieth birthday.

Franciscus Jozef Brüggen was born in Amsterdam on 30 October 1934, the youngest of nine children of August Brüggen, who owned a textile factory, and the former Johanna Verkley, an amateur singer. He studied recorder and flute at the Amsterdam Conservatory and musicology at the University of Amsterdam. At twenty-one he became a professor of Baroque music at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague. He was a visiting professor at Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley.

Mr. Brüggen is survived by his wife, Machtelt Israëls, and two daughters from that marriage, Zephyr and Eos, as well as two daughters from a previous marriage, Alicia and Laura, and a grandson.

Mr. Brüggen, who had appeared frail for many years and sat on a stool to conduct, last led an orchestra in May. But despite failing health he had no plans to abandon his career. In 2008 he told The Times that he planned to conduct “until I fall dead, like all conductors.”

Vivien SchweitzerThe New York Times

Schroeder Hall Opens


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Schroeder Hall at Sonoma State University

Schroeder Hall at Sonoma State University

Superstars were out in force Saturday evening, 23 August 2014, to open the new Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center [in Rohnert Park, CA] with an organ recital, one of a series of showcase events on the new music hall’s first day. The recital was preceded by Santa Rosa pianist Jeffrey Kahane playing Beethoven and Chopin and followed by pianist David Benoit’s tribute to Charlie Brown.

The first superstar was the organ itself, a Baroque-style tracker organ – meaning the pipes’ valves are opened and closed by mechanical pushrods connected to the keys of the keyboards – built by famed organ builder John Brombaugh in 1972. It’s considered a masterpiece of organ building.

The second was James David Christie, world renowned as one of the finest organists of his generation. He’s the organist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and has won numerous international prizes for his playing.

The group of composers who wrote the program’s music were all superstars as well. Georg Böhm (1661-1733) wrote the oceanic Preludium in C Major. A piece by an anonymous Dutch composer from the sixteenth century was like a walk through a spring meadow. Jan Sweelinck (1562-1621) wrote the mystical polyphony of his Ricercar that turned from empyreal to earthily playful at the end. Johann Buttstett (1666-1727) wrote a Fugue in E minor that shimmered like images in a hall of mirrors. Dieterich Buxtehude (1637-1707), one of Johann Sebastian Bach’s teachers, was at his ponderous and stormy best, while Bach’s second cousin, Johann Bernhard Bach (1676-1749), wrote the Ciaconna in B-flat Major that beautifully showed off the organ’s various possibilities.

Christie finished the concert with that old warhorse, Johann Sebastian Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor (BWV 565). He notched up the tempo, played it with enormous verve, and showed that it doesn’t have to be Halloween music.

The final superstar was Schroeder Hall itself, an acoustically perfect space for the world class organ. Christie chose these pieces to showcase the instrument, turning its pipes and stops and timbres like jewels reflecting sunlight. He got a well-deserved standing ovation, and the most common word heard among the crowd, as it filed out, was, “Wow!”

At a media event on the previous Monday, Christie said that the Brombaugh Opus 9 organ, with its 1,248 handmade pipes and all-wood cases, is not only a beautiful musical instrument, it’s historically important, too. When Brombaugh built it in 1972 for a Baptist Church in Toledo, Ohio, he designed it to replicate the clear voice of the great Baroque organs of northern Europe rather than the neo-Baroque style that was in vogue in the 1960s and 1970s and was common in church organs of the time. “It launched a reawakening of interest in that earlier construction,” Christie said.

Interestingly, Christie mentioned that when the Brombaugh Opus 9 was installed in Toledo, he was eighteen, traveled there to hear it, and had a chance to play it, so this world-famous organist and this instrument came full circle at Schroeder Hall’s inaugural recital.

Among others, the hall was funded by Jean Schulz, the widow of Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz. The Santa Rosa cartoonist’s characters included Schroeder, a tow-headed kid who loved playing Beethoven on his toy piano. The foyer of Schroeder Hall features many original cartoon panels featuring the young pianist at his keyboard. The Brombaugh organ was donated by B. J. and Bebe Cassin. Mr. Cassin is a Bay Area venture capitalist who invested early in many of the high-tech businesses that now rule Silicon Valley.

The Opus 9 sits high on its own balcony above the stage. The ceiling is high and vaulted, and the sound flows over the seats to the rear of the hall, which is curved like half of a cylinder. This allows the sound to refocus itself over the seating, adding rich texture and reverberation to the organ’s clarity of line. The walls leading from front to rear hold hardwood chests containing velour panels attached to rollers. Motors allow the panels to be pulled out or tucked away to “tune” the hall to the sounds of instruments, whether organ, piano, brass choir, voice, or chamber ensemble. The entire hall is an instrument and part of the action.

Some of the most savvy designers in the country took part in the planning of the $9.5 million recital chamber. The architecture was designed by BAR Architects of San Francisco, with acoustical expertise by Kirkegaard Associates of Chicago and theatrical consulting by Auerbach Pollock Friedlander of San Francisco. Structural and civil engineering were by Santa Rosa firms.

Jeff CoxThe [Santa Rosa] Press Democrat

Schulenberg Explores C. P. E. Bach


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SchulenbergcropWagner College music historian David Schulenberg’s new book, The Music of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, will be published in September 2014 by the University of Rochester Press, a partner of the humanities publishing house Boydell & Brewer.

Of the four sons of J. S. Bach who became composers, Carl Philipp Emanuel (1714-88) was the most prolific, the most original and the most influential, both during and after his lifetime. This first full-length English-language study critically surveys his output, examining not only the famous keyboard sonatas and concertos but also the songs, chamber music, and sacred works, many of which resurfaced in 1999 and have not previously been evaluated. The book also outlines the composer’s career from his student days at Leipzig and Frankfurt (Oder) to his nearly three decades as court musician to Prussian King Frederick “the Great” and his last twenty years as cantor at Hamburg.

Focusing on the composer’s choices within his social and historical context, the book shows how C. P. E. Bach deliberately avoided his father’s style while adopting the manner of his Berlin colleagues, derived from Italian opera. A new perspective on the composer emerges from the demonstration that C. P. E. Bach, best known for his virtuoso keyboard works, refashioned himself as a writer of vocal music and popular chamber compositions in response to changing cultural and aesthetic trends. Supplementary texts and musical examples are included on a companion website.

The Music of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach follows the publication of Schulenberg’s The Music of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (University of Rochester Press, 2010) as well as several collections of musical scores by Johann Sebastian, Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach edited by Schulenberg.

Wagner College

Re: Generation


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Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones

Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones

Nas in the building
Premier‘s in the building
This is how we redefine, the music
Let’s go

Yeah, ya’ll know I gets it on, sip on Dom
Clear the throat, wet the palate
Compose a ballet, then expose a rare talent
The kick drum will have you numb, the snare‘s valid
That’s how Premier styles it
Yeah ya’ll know he gets it on, that’s a given
Every song I’ve written, make the sky clear blue
Like the beginning scenes of The Simpsons
Dominions of the British Empire
We’ll listen to Bach, with tea and biscuits
Preem revisits, songs centuries old
Hip-Hop; symphony’s orchestras out cold with it
You know the flow’s administered
By the deputy, rhyme prime-minister
Sir Nas, I’m certified
Please be seated and your shirt and tie, dresses on
Arrive early, when the curtains rise, bet it’s on
A certain etiquette involved with this
Unlike any other music genre is, bring the drama in

Rap Genius Regeneration Music Project

C. P. E. Bach in Frankfurt an der Oder


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"Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach" Concert Hall

“Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach” Concert Hall

In his autobiography of 1773, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, the second son of Johann Sebastian Bach, wrote, “After completing secondary school in Leipzig at the St. Thomas School, I was awarded rights to study at the University level, first in Leipzig and then in Frankfurt on the Oder. While in Frankfurt, I composed works for an academy that I directed whenever public celebrations required music.” In recognition of his contributions to its musical life in the eighteenth century, the city of Frankfurt has dedicated a concert hall to C. P. E. Bach and has established an exhibit documenting his life and works.

The concert hall has been fashioned from the thirteenth-century church of the former Franciscan monastery that stood near the river on the northeast corner of the old city. Originally built in a modest form of Brick Gothic, the church emerged from the rubble of the Second World War largely unscathed. Thereafter the historic building fabric steadily deteriorated until extensive stabilization, restoration and reconstruction could begin in 1969. During renovation of the roof, medieval paintings were discovered on the vaulting and restored, and the two gables visible on the building exterior were renewed according to historic preservation guidelines. Finally, in 1975, the west end of the concert hall received an organ built by Wilhelm Sauer Orgelbau.

An expanded Bach exhibition attached to the concert hall will open in December 2014 as one of the culminating events of the celebration of the three-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.

Brandenburgisches Staatsorchester Frankfurt

Marching Bach


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The Portsmouth West Senators

The “Sensational Senators”

Portsmouth West High School’s marching band is in the middle of their summer band camp, fueled by last year’s trip to [Ohio] State and the eagerness of learning a whole new show. Mike Pierce, band director, is excited about this show and says that his team is what makes their unique shows what they are. “We have connections in Drum Corps, and the person who writes my drill judges nationally and internationally,” Pierce said.

One of Pierce’s teammates recently saw a show themed around cubes, and they brainstormed ways of using cubes and boxes on the field, while making it their own. Then, the idea of “Box Music” started to form, in which the band would create box shapes in the field and perform classical Bach pieces that have been accented with different genres of modern music. “Here at West, we never do anything straightforward; you usually either love us or you hate us,” Pierce said. “In this show, we intertwine a lot of Bach’s classical pieces with elements of today’s music and chordal systems, so it is not the Bach of 1740, but the Bach of the modern twist at West.”

West’s marching band usually incorporates giant props into their marching shows. This year’s show will use giant cubes on the field that will rotate to reveal different colors with each passing movement of their show.

“Last year, we were the second best school in the state for our sized school. This year’s group, while smaller, has a terrific attitude about things,” Pierce said. “They jumped in so hard on the first day that it was just motivating to me”

Josh Hall, senior, is drum major this year. Hall has been playing music since the sixth grade and even made a trip to Carnegie Hall, in New York City, last year to perform in the Honors Performance Series. “I figured if anyone should be drum major, it should be me,” Hall said. “Everyone knows I am the strictest person in the band. I am very passionate about band, and I want to go to school to be a band director. I love marching band. It is what I do. The music, fire and drive it creates inside of you is just amazing”

Hall said that he might eventually be interested in directing high school bands, but he is interested in directing university bands the most. “This show is pretty unique and interesting. I think we ought to do pretty well. We have small numbers, but I think we’re going to go far,” Hall said. “Also, there is a party at Owens.”

Meredith Sadler is directing color guard, as she has for years. This year, Band Booster President Becky Lovins is also stepping up and helping to assist the direction of the color guard.

Sydney Kouns, senior, has been in color guard since her freshman year of high school, prior to that, playing the clarinet. Kouns said she might look into color guard opportunities in college, but is most interested in pursuing musical theatre. “My eighth grade year, I always went to the football games to watch the color guard,” Kouns explained. “It looked like a lot of fun. I didn’t think I’d make it, but thought I’d at least try out. I started to enjoy it as I went along and I really love it now.”

Kouns has been involved in the unique shows that Pierce has produced for the past four years, but she said she was surprised by this year’s theme and music. “I was a bit surprised when I was told this year’s show was Bach, but now that I’ve heard the music, I love it,” Kouns said. “Our choreography is really great and I am excited to see where we go. I think that, because our trip to State last year, we’re a lot more dedicated and ready to go.”

Joseph PrattPortsmouth Daily Times


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