The Student News Site of Taipei American School




Jazz Up Your Holiday with TAS Musical Ensembles


To start a festive autumnal music season, on November 22nd, TAS’s US Celebration of Chamber Music performance begins at 5:30pm. Over the course of two weeks, more than seven music groups will perform at the concerts taking place.

Around a week after the Celebration of Chamber Music, US Concert Choir, US String Orchestra, and US Symphonic Band will perform in the US Music Ensembles Concert on Thursday, December 1st, starting at 7:00pm.

Just a day afterwards, on Friday, December 2nd, the US Jazz Ensemble Supper Club will perform at 7:00pm as well. It’s a great way to spend the first Friday of December and hang out with friends and loosen up a few weeks before exams start. The US Jazz Ensemble Supper Club, directed by Mr. Heberer, will be performing a multitude of pieces that include, “Jive Samba” by Nat Adderley, “A Child Is Born” by Thad jones, “Blues Be King, and “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” by Duke Ellington, and “The Way We Were” and “Spring Ain’t Here” by Pat Metheny. The band will perform first as an entire ensemble and then in different combinations of smaller groups. There will also be several features during the course of the night. “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” will feature vocalist Thomas Hou, who will also perform some other songs with smaller group combinations of the band. “Blues Be King” will feature senior guitarist, Brandon Tsou and trombonist Annabel Uhlman will be featured in “The Way We Were.”

Besides their upcoming performance, the Jazz band has been pretty busy with other festivals. Just a couple of weeks ago the Jazz band traveled to Hong Kong for the Hong Kong International School (HKIS) Jazz Festival. Andrew Xu (9) says, “[it was] one of the best opportunities to work with professional, full-time musicians. I’ll remember this trip for what I learned on my instrument, but also the fun times I had.” Apart from the festival, the band had downtime to bond with each other and just have fun. Ian Huang (9) says, “I feel like over the four days, having to live together with all our bandmates, with the additional five students from Symphonic [band] and Wind [ensemble], everyone bonded from places like the yacht ride, and the one hour bus rides.”

Overall, Mr. Heberer says that “as far as Jazz musicianship, repertoire and soloists go, TAS was by far the best group. The HKIS Jazz Festival is an ‘educational’ festival; but we would have brought back a first place trophy had it been a competition.” This feat is impressive as Mr. Heberer says, “this is the youngest TAS Jazz Ensemble in the past 21 years. We have more freshmen this year than ever before.”

Furthermore, congratulations to Julian Wittich (12) and Brandon Tsou (12) who got second place in the Taichung International Jazz Festival and were the only high school students there while many others were professional players. So check the performance out and further celebrate the US Jazz band’s accomplishments.

At the end of this festive music season, US Concert Orchestra, US Wind Ensemble and US Opus will be performing on December 3 at the US Winter Concert, starting at 7:00pm. Concert Orchestra’s program for the night includes: The Magic Flute Overture by Mozart and Serenade for Strings by Dvorak.

The Magic Flute Overture carries an interesting recurring theme of “3”. The overture starts with three chords, followed by a fast section, and then three chords again. Additionally, the “3” in the title of the 3rd movement resembles a triangle which references a part of Mozart’s background. He was a Freemason (a charitable Christian organization) and the symbol of that was a triangle.

Serenade for Strings is essentially a delightful piece that evokes a jovial mood. While the theme of “3” is reiterated throughout Mozart’s piece, Dvorak uses a tricky key signature of D flat in the second movement of Serenade for Strings. This artistic choice of key in D flat creates some difficulty for the players as they cannot use open strings.

In addition to performing at the Winter Concert, the US Concert Orchestra recently scored high enough in a city competition to go to finals, which will take place in March 2017. Congratulations and fingers crossed for a perfect date for the finals since many of the orchestral players may be absent for IASAS Cultural Convention and AMIS.

On top of that noteworthy achievement, the orchestra will be playing at a Veterans Hospital Performance on December 6th, just three days after the Winter Concert. The program for the Veterans Hospital Performance is similar to the pieces they will play at the Winter Concert. Concert Orchestra will be playing Dvorak and some other short pop music selections.

As of right now, Ms. Pipkin believes that the orchestra can improve their intonation, especially in the Tempo di Valse movement.  This second movement is particularly challenging for the first violins due to the tricky key signatures with many sharps and flats. While intonation can be worked on, Ms. Pipkin says, “Everyone always seems to have a good time and enjoy expressing the flow of the music. In the end when everyone gets on stage, everyone gives a hundred percent.”

As Mr. Heberer says, “TAS is one of the best schools in the world to teach music. I don’t know a better music program amongst international schools. That’s why I’m still here after 21 years.” TAS has an international reputation for one of the best music programs in the world so don’t miss out on the multitude of performances that will be going on over the course of the two weeks starting on November 22nd.

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