DSMS band holds memorable musical evening


Fron left to right: Composer William Owens, Band Director Loren Welles, honoree Linda McDavitt, Band Director Jay Larson, and Band Director Jana Galloway. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Alice Adams


Musician-activist Bono must have attended last Tuesday's Dripping Springs Middle School (DSMS) Band's spring concert when he said, "Music can change the world because it can change people," and anyone in the packed house who didn't experience a lighter spirit, joy-filled soul and more positive outlook must have been texting the entire time.

The specialness of the evening was palpable when first entering the auditorium, and a large portion of the audience was had come to hear and see the premier of the newly-commissioned work by Texas Composer William Owens called "Voyage of the Bonfire," dedicated to former DS Band Director Linda McDavitt -- but more about that later.

The evening began with a video announcement of the band's participation in the community food drive, "Schools Out Foods In." Joining the DS High School Band, students will fill bags with food to be delivered to kids who, ordinarily, rely on free breakfast and lunch programs for vital nutrition during the school year.

The DS Middle School's band then put its best foot under the leadership of Directors Jay Larson, Loren Welles and Jana Galloway as the talented sixth, seventh and eighth grade musicians took the stage to perform with the various ensembles.

The evening's musical program began with a performance of the Jazz Band under the baton of volunteer director Joe Dollard and featuring two swinging renditions of Henri Mancini's "Pink Panther" and Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va," both arranged by Dollard, with solo breaks from every section.

Next on stage, the Concert Band -- directed by Loren Welles --  added more spice and a few laughs to the evening with three musical delights: Brian Balmages' "Comet Ride" for a quick trip into outer space, "Percussion Picante" by Eric Osterling for a South American jaunt and, for those in the audience who remember the childhood thrill and the fun of Saturday morning cartoons, Robert Sheldon's "Crazy for Cartoons," with some unusual sounds emanating from the percussion section.

This ensemble captured the lightness and shadings necessary to create multiple dimensions of each selection. Bravo for magical music-making! The audience loved it!

Students recognized for their achievements in musicianship and contributions to the band were:

Concert Band - Maggie Howe, Jasmine Bisett, Hannah Fontenot

Symphonic Band - Alexander MacDowell, Ian Stinson, Dimitri Xenos

Wind Ensemble - Drew Wilson, Madelyn Foster, Anton Miller-Thomas, Zach Woten

 The Symphonic Band then took the spotlight, ,performing the high-energy "Dynamo," by Todd Stalter before traveling to "the dark side" for the tunefully clever "Zombie Tango." by James Meredith, and concluding this portion of the program, a trip to the 1930s and introducing the bigger-than-life character  made famous by the immortal Cab Calloway.

Once again the musicality of this ensemble added depth to each passage, and the diversity of the selections, themselves, demonstrated the agility of the players as they responded to deft direction.

Opening their portion of the program with "Midway March," the Wind Ensemble thrilled the hearts of Composer John Williams' fans with its rich showcase of each of the band's sections. This traditional march was followed by the more futuristic "Walking To The Sky" by Robert Buckley,  with its pulsating momentum and otherworldly illusion of people walking skyward into infinity.

Then, a quick change of pace and place brings us back down to earth with the Ensemble's final selection, "Can't Stop The Feeling" by Justin Timberlake, with arrangement by Paul Murtha. Challenging rhythms and a tuba line even a mother could love.

Then, for the evening's centerpiece, Conductor/Composer William Owens took the podium to direct the combined bands in the debut of their newly-commissioned  "Voyage of the Bonfire." Creating the movement and rhythm of the waves against the sailboat's bow, Owen paints a beautiful depiction of readying the craft for a voyage, adding the ship's bell to the percussive diversity of the piece and setting sail. Aside from creating a tonal seascape saluting Linda McDavitt's many years as a percussionist and private percussion teacher, the composer masterfully captured this former Dripping Springs director's love of sailing and the sea.

McDavitt, surrounded by admirers and former colleagues, parents and students, was presented with a signed score for "Voyage" as well as the ship's bell used in the piece.

It is, indeed, rare for a school to commission an original work that will, eventually, join the catalog of UIL contest-worthy selections, and rarer still for the composition to be focused on the life of a talented Texan.

Bravo -- to the directors, the student musicians, their parents and to the spirit of Dripping Springs bands of the past and all those directors -- like McDavitt -- and students who work so diligently at upholding the high bar of quality as they continue this proud tradition. The evening of celebration was well-earned and certainly deserved.

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