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May 12, 2005 • Volume 13 Number 17

BC bOp! trombonists Julie Grimes (second from left) and Jonathan Romiti (far right) rehearse with Needham middle school students Ben Tillotson and David Bonaiuto in preparation for the Needham Jazz Festival.

Young Musicians Take Notes with BC bOp!

They are a widely acclaimed and accomplished student jazz ensemble, performing at festivals and other special events in venues like Carnegie Hall and Walt Disney Resort in Florida. But members of BC bOp! get plenty of satisfaction doing gigs with musically inclined youngsters just a few miles away in Needham.

On April 9, BC bOp! took part in the Needham Jazz Festival, a fundraising event for the Needham Public Schools music program. The BC student musicians shared the stage with middle and high school students, as well as with Needham resident Rick Peckham, a jazz guitarist and faculty member at Berklee College of Music.

In preparation for the concert, Boston College Bands Director Sebastian Bonaiuto and BC bOp! welcomed the Needham students for a workshop in Conte Forum, giving their younger counterparts some pointers and encouragement.

Not surprisingly, say the BC students, their younger counterparts were a little shy at first. "Once they got their instruments in their hands, everything took off from there," said Jonathan Romiti '08.

Julie Grimes '07 said, "We played the music of the Needham ensembles alongside the students, which seemed to me to have the most impact. It showed the younger musicians exactly how more experienced players would behave in their situation and pointed out individual errors without having to put any one student on the spot.

"Just like with any field, explaining music in a clear and concise manner requires a greater understanding than simply playing it. I feel as though I benefited from this experience by becoming more comfortable in instructional settings and more confident with my abilities to properly explain my thoughts and ideas to others."

In the end, says Bonaiuto, everyone had an enlightening and beneficial experience, including the Needham music program, which raised more than $5,000 from the concert.

"What impressed me was how many Needham parents expressed their affection for BC, even though they have no real connection to it," said Bonaiuto, a Needham resident whose two children took part in the concert and workshop. "When they hear us play, and they know that our students have worked with the kids, they say, 'Wow, I didn't realize BC did things like that.'

"The middle school and high school kids were definitely wowed by the whole thing. There's just no substitute for coming onto a college campus as an invited guest and having a chance to work with musically talented college students. It's so important for them to hear a mature sound from an ensemble that performs regularly in public."

As for the BC bOp! members, Bonaiuto says they had the opportunity to be mentors, and to perhaps gain some perspective on their own musical and personal development. "Some of them have been out of high school for a few years, and it's been even longer since they were in middle school. Being around these younger students can help them recall, and appreciate, their own journey."

This is the third such collaboration between BC bOp! and the Needham schools music program, but Bonaiuto notes that BC Bands regularly hosts middle and high school music ensembles, some of them from as far away as Pennsylvania and Maryland.

"These visits are a nice change in the routine for the kids," he said. "The surroundings are different, of course, but we also make the workshops more intimate, so the BC students can work closely with the younger ones. It's a way for us to 'export' what we do here at BC." -Sean Smith

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