For the past two months, as most of us have been staying home to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus, members of musical groups like the Hanover Wind Symphony have been working to figure out ways to stay in tune during this era of social distancing.
Rehearsals can’t be held and concerts have been canceled, yet the HWS musicians have found ingenious ways to keep up their skills and use this time to prepare for the day–hopefully soon–when we’ll all be able to get back to some semblance of life as we knew it.
Len Stern of Kinnelon, an HWS trumpeter and the HWS treasurer, bought a good microphone, downloaded some jazz recordings, and has been playing duets. “We’re also doing a Zoom meeting every other week, which helps us maintain a cohesive family atmosphere,” says Stern. “We’re getting to know each other much better now. For instance, at one of these meetings we asked participants when each of us had an ‘aha’ moment–that is, when we knew we’d be going into music.”
Kurt Zimmermann of Rockaway, HWS associate music director and conductor, recalls that, as a teenager he would always hear music in his head and pretend to be conducting an orchestra. “I knew music was always a part of me, and after my first semester in college, I became a music major,” Zimmermann notes.
Dr. William Trusheim of West Milford, chairman of the HWS board, also enjoys the Zoom sessions, which are organized by Matthew Paterno of Parsippany, the HWS music director. Trusheim points out that talking about each musician’s biggest musical influence is not normally something the wind band has time for during rehearsals. “You get to know people in a different light now,” he notes.
Trusheim, an HWS trumpeter who grew up in Baltimore, began playing the clarinet in the second grade, but switched to trumpet in the third grade. “Trumpet was my original preference, but I played whatever instruments they had available,” he recalls. Playing at Rutgers University, under the direction of band director Scott Whitener–a major musical influence–he discovered that he wanted to do for other students what the band director had done for him. At that point, he switched his major from chemistry to music education, and went on to a career as a band director, music department chair, director of adult education, and then a school principal and superintendent. Now retired, he relishes playing in the HWS trumpet section.
Paterno, the HWS music director and conductor, is helping his musicians stay focused during this pandemic by emailing them links to recordings so they can listen to how other groups play particular pieces. He encourages the HWS musicians to pay attention to the articulation of the performers in one piece, the dynamic range of a group in another, and the tone or intonation in yet another performance. “Besides enjoying the music, this helps them stay sharp,” Paterno points out.
The music director observes that, “like a great sports team, an orchestra depends on each individual, and the skills they bring to the performance. We’re keeping the love and interest going in a time when we can’t make music together. It’s not the same as being together, but we’re calling this period ‘intermission.’ ”
Zimmermann, the HWS associate music director and conductor, finds the Zoom meetings extremely valuable, with things to reflect on, like the blend and balance of a musical piece, as well as intonation, rhythm and dynamics. As a music educator at Hopatcong High School, Zimmermann works with students on rhythm and other musical elements, but he finds it’s difficult for the students because they can’t play together. “Our job at the Hanover Wind Symphony is to carry this art forward, to keep this flame alive,” he says.
Paterno points out that everything with the HWS is in flux at the moment: “If they make it so 10 people can play together, maybe we’ll have a rehearsal with the trumpets playing together, then the clarinets, and so on. We remain very positive and focused on the idea of doing this, but how we do it is still a work in progress.”
For 35 years, the Hanover Wind Symphony has played to enthusiastic audiences. HWS members are volunteers who share a love for music and a passion for enriching the cultural fabric of the community with the thrill of live wind band performances. By day, HWS members are accountants, engineers, teachers and business executives. They share the enjoyment of music with live audiences, and help mentor the next generation of wind musicians.
For further information about the Hanover Wind Symphony, visit www.hanoverwinds.org.