When the Ocean City Pops Brass Quintet performed its first two pieces at a concert at the Ocean City Free Public Library on Friday evening, the young composers of those pieces were sitting right up front to hear them.

Egg Harbor Township High School students Casey Curtis and Taria Mitchell listened attentively as short pieces they composed as part of a partnership with the Ocean City Pops debuted in the Pops’ Summer Concert Series.

“I’d only heard it on the computer before,” said Curtis, an incoming senior, who plays the baritone sax and chose to compose a piece for brass instruments because she wanted the challenge. “It was such a great opportunity.”

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The project grew out of a partnership with the Pops and the Orchestra Engagement Lab in Vermont, which encourages orchestras to get involved in their communities. Sarah Geller, a violinist with the orchestra, coordinated the school project. She said because the opportunity came up very late last summer, they had to quickly find a school that offered music theory and was willing to get involved. Township school supervisor of fine and performing arts Thomas Weber and music theory teacher Lauren Thomas were enthusiastic, and Thomas took the project to the 24 students in her class.

“They did an awesome job, especially considering some had never composed before,” said Thomas, who attended the first two concerts featuring student works

Geller and guest artist Tracy Silverman, an electric violinist, mentored the students and chose the six pieces the orchestra members would perform during the summer chamber music series. Students got the score of an original piece, “Embrace,” that the orchestra will perform in September, and were able to use it as a model. They were also given the themes of family and Hurricane Sandy.

The other four students’ whose works were chosen are Rebecca Wizov, Shawn Garrone, Ingrid Quiroz and Wolfgang Trumbauer. Wizov’s piece was performed July 26, and the other three will be featured at the 7 p.m. Aug. 23 concert. On Sept. 13, a collaborative work will be featured with Silverman.

Curtis’ piece, titled “A Fleeting Nightmare,” is about a storm passing through. It starts quietly then gets eerie and energetic, and ends with the relief of it being over. It was a lot to squeeze into just one or two minutes, but the quintet members were impressed with both her and Mitchell’s pieces.

“They are not easy,” said trumpet player James Hala.

“They are short but have challenges,” trombonist Cathy Bridge said.

Trumpet player Steve Heitzer said it gives students a great sense of power to create music, and not just play it.

Students said it did boost their confidence. Mitchell, a pianist who graduated in June, will attend Westminster Choir College in Princeton to study music education.

“I did a lot of layers, but I really didn’t realize how hard it would be for all the instruments,” she said. “I’ve written music before, but just for piano.”

Wizov will attend Temple University to study music education in the fall and said she had done song arranging for the school choir, but not for instruments. Her piece was called “Calm Before the Storm” and was written for marimba and violin.

“It was a great way to end the school year,” she said of the project.

Thomas said the project gave students the opportunity to use all they had learned through the school year, and she’d love to do it again.

One of the hardest parts, students said, was actually coming up with a name for their piece. Mitchell noted that her work started out titled “Just An Idea” because initially that’s what it was, but then she couldn’t really think of a better title, so that’s what it stayed.

“Well, it was a very good idea,” Hala said as Mitchell took her bow.

Contact Diane D'Amico:


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