When the Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center was formed earlier this year and announced plans to eventually bring a 500-seat facility to Weehawken, one of the main components of the group was to offer educational programs, to enable the students of Weehawken a chance to learn from professional musicians and artists.
So when the Manhattan Brass Quintet was hired by the HRPAC to perform its monthly concert as part of the UBS Atrium Series, they were asked if they would take the time to work with the aspiring musicians at Weehawken High School – the members of the marching band and the jazz band – as well as all 108 music students at the high school.
That request was not a problem for trumpeter Wayne DuMaine.
“It’s something we do a lot,” said DuMaine, who not only plays with the renowned group, but will also be the associate conductor for the revival of “Fiddler on the Roof” that is coming to Broadway after the holidays. “We play a lot of children’s concerts, and we take the time to teach the children about our musical instruments and how we all got started.”
But this session, which was held last Tuesday at the high school, a few hours before the scheduled atrium concert, was a little different for DuMaine and his group.
“At this school, there was something about the respect they have for music,” DuMaine said. “You could tell that they worked very hard. They were all very attentive and completely involved. They were also interested in what we did outside of music. We like talking to young musicians, to encourage them to play. But these kids were so engaging and interesting.”
After DuMaine and the Manhattan Brass Quintet performed a few numbers for the Weehawken High students, it was then the students’ turn to perform for the professionals.
“Listening to them,” DuMaine said, “I can see their passion. It was fun to be able to give them pointers.”
DuMaine and the other members of the quartet gave the Weehawken students some tips, like breathing techniques and finger placement.
“I think the kids were just amazed, first with their performance capabilities, then with the way they worked with them,” said Steve Spinosa, the music coordinator for the Weehawken school district. “They were very down-to-earth and they related well with the kids. They gave us a critique of our performance and then worked with some practice techniques.”
The students were all floored with the way the Manhattan Brass Quintet worked with them.
“It was pretty impressive,” said senior Mary Tamborra, who plays the trumpet like DuMaine. “They were phenomenal. For me, it was a good learning experience, because I play the trumpet. I was able to learn the different breathing techniques, and that’s going to help me. I knew they were professionals, but the way they worked with us surprised me.”
“I thought it was very good, because they played for us, and then we played for them,” said senior percussionist Rosemary Gonzalez. “They told us what we could fix and alter. I was really impressed.”
Spinosa said that the students received a chance to hear music that they more than likely wouldn’t get elsewhere, except for possibly hearing recordings.
“These kids don’t get enough arts in their lives,” Spinosa said. “They might live a boat ride away from New York City, but they don’t get opportunities like this. The tickets to see performances like this are so costly. But this time, the arts were brought to them. The kids got to see some music diversity. The quartet played a number of different pieces, including a classical repertoire and that really impressed the kids. Then, they played some contemporary songs. It was a great opportunity.”
Retired New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Marie Garibaldi, who is a member of the HRPAC’s Board of Directors, attended the event and was thoroughly moved.
“It was absolutely wonderful,” Garibaldi said. “The kids were given great advice and were very appreciative. I found the whole day to be very informative. I really don’t know much about music, but I was fascinated by the story of their instruments. The kids were really interested and they interacted very well. I think the kids learned a lot, and I know I certainly did.”
DuMaine said that there were several points that he wanted to make clear in the presentation.
“We stressed that we all have lives outside of music, that you can become a doctor or a lawyer and still play an instrument professionally,” said DuMaine, who considers himself a “full-time free-lance musician.”
“They can make it happen if they want to be musicians,” DuMaine said. “They have a great opportunity to explore the music world, because they live right across the river from New York, with everything going on right there. We made it a point to tell them that although we’re the Manhattan Brass Quintet, none of us are originally from New York [DuMaine hails from St. Louis]. We all came to New York, looking for the dream. So I tried to make it clear that there is so much there for them.”
Started in school bands
There was another aspect to the presentation that had to be addressed. All of the members of the quartet got their music starts by playing in a school band, just like the Weehawken students.
“I could relate to them, because they were in a marching band like me,” Tamborra said. “I may want to pursue it further, like play for a marching band in college. I really enjoyed them talking about their life experiences. I found it all very enjoyable.”
“I think they all realized that they could do anything they want, as long as hard work and practice was involved,” Spinosa said. “They started in high school and went on to become professionals and have other lives as well.”
The HRPAC hopes that the educational side will become a regular feature, with other groups going to the students and introducing them to the arts firsthand.
“It was thoroughly enjoyable,” Spinosa said. “I hope they do more.”
“I was very pleased with the way it turned out,” Garibaldi said. “We’re going to try to do more of that in the future.”
After the Manhattan Brass Quintet left the students, they headed to the UBS Atrium in Lincoln Harbor and performed a holiday concert for an audience of 250.
“It was a lot of fun,” DuMaine said. “We love playing holiday concerts. It was a great turnout and a lot of fun. But working with the kids was something I’ll remember.”