RANDOLPH, NJ- This past Saturday night was filled with music from both the Randolph Middle School and High School Percussion Ensembles showcasing their talent. With director Mr. Thomas Murphy at the helm, both groups were able to play challenging, enjoyable music for everyone in attendance.
Opening the evening were the The Orffamaniacs, led by instructor Mrs. Natalie Ernstes. They are a group of choir students from Shongum Elementary School who played an arrangement of percussion music making use of xylophones, bells, and drums. Some percussionists actually participated in this group when they were younger.
The Middle school percussion ensemble followed and played two selections, Mercury Rising and Dance of the Swans, which were greeted with loud applause. Percussion Ensemble in the Middle School allows 7th and 8th graders the ability to gain musical knowledge outside of ordinary band class. It acts as an attempt to grow their skills as percussionists within an environment that is a change of pace from band class during the day.
A tradition started 21 years ago by Mr. David Aulenbach, the former director of bands and percussion instructor for Randolph School Districts, allows students to play music specifically for percussion to challenge themselves and grow as musicians. Being a part of the percussion ensemble teaches students many musical lessons such as technique and rhythm, “But it also teaches dedication, patience, timeliness; all the life skills we all have to learn,” said Murphy.
In High School the students are given the opportunity to join the High School Percussion Ensemble. This year the percussionists were selected to go to Music For All National Festival in Indianapolis. They showcased 3 rehearsed pieces at the end of the show, one last time for families and friends, as a reminder of how much they have learned this past year to become better musicians.
One song, mainly student led, Sacrificial Rite, performed under the ominous glow of red lights featured Seniors Savanna Brackelmanns-Puig, Ethan Weisberger, Shane Perlow, and Tyler Stampone, as well as Junior Charlie Aulenbach. With a mix of singing, loud drums, and eerie noises, it energized the atmosphere for the selections later in the night.
One student, senior Tyler Stampone, went as far as arranging music from the hit show and movie “Star Trek”, which was premiered that night and was a huge hit with the crowd. His decision comes after last year’s great success of his arrangement of “Shaken not Stirred: Music of James Bond”. His commitment to arrange another piece was mainly because of the great experience and crowd appeal it gained last year. “I enjoyed writing it and it’s really fun to take songs from something I enjoy watching on television and recreating them through a completely different medium.”
Others showcased their music talents as well with the opportunity for some students to perform solos they selected and learned individually, without any major help from instructors. Junior Charlie Aulenbach and Senior Savanna Brackelmanns-Puig each performed a solo they wrote themselves for marimba.
Then, a trio comprised of Sophomores Jack Knapp and Andre Hance, and Junior Charlie Aulenbach played a marimba piece called Stubernic. This piece proved to be interesting because not only did they play on the bars of the instrument, they also utilized the frame of the instrument for added rhythmic effect.
Later, senior Ethan Weisberger took the stage for a vibe piece entitled Blues for Gilbert which he learned after he remembered hearing a former Randolph alumnus and percussionist, Neil McNulty, play it his senior year as well.
To wrap up the solos, Junior Matthew Sukkert played an improvised drum set solo called Bambulka, which is accompanied by an instrumental track composed by his private drum set instructor JP Bouvet.
At the end of the concert the 5 seniors in the ensemble got the microphone and gave a warm thank you to Mr. Murphy for all that he has taught them through the years as their percussion instructor, the majority of who began playing in 5th grade. By having Mr. Murphy teach percussionists every year since 5th grade all the way up until their senior year of high school, it allows them to get better by having such a qualified specialist push them to their limits and embrace their musical ability.
Also thanked was Andria Stampone, mother of Tyler Stampone, who has been involved with chaperoning and planning things related to percussion festivities, as well as being someone who looked out for the percussionists throughout the course of the year.
Editor's Note: Ethan Weisberger is a student at Randolph High School participating in a journalism program with TAP into Randolph.