For the first time in more than 20 years, Ridgefield High School has its own student symphony, composed of 91 musicians. In December this new group was already able to proficiently perform Beethoven’s entire Fifth Symphony.
“I had worked as band director for six years in the middle schools in Ridgefield and knew I had the high school talent to combine the band and strings in a symphonic format,” said Michael McNamara, director. “I was so pleased with the results of our first concert.”
Working with Mr. McNamara is Joyce Flanagan, known to everyone as “Flan.”
“I love working with Mike,” Ms. Flanagan said. “He reminds me so much of myself 25 years ago when I first arrived at the high school from the middle school. We also have a similar sense of humor, lots of energy, and love working as a team.”
Speaking of teamwork, many music students said their music studies are their favorite classes.
“I love that we get to explore so many musical venues and are able to work with students from all the different grade levels,” said Allie Short. “We are such a mix. We are one big, supportive family.”
Allie is also impressed with the fact that there are 12 performing groups at the high school, including two student-led musical groups.
“I am in charge of the Nightingales, an a cappella group of eight women,” she said. “I do the auditioning, choose the songs and train performers for the stage. We love singing songs from Glee.”
Jazz musician Jack Truskowski described his musical experience at Ridgefield High School by saying, “Our musical directors are the best. They listen to us. They meet our needs. They treat us like members of a team. They make learning fun.”
Jack was recently named an “All-Eastern Musician” and selected as one of two jazz alto saxophonists in the eastern United States to perform at the All-Eastern Music Festival in April.
Mr. McNamara said, “We want our students to learn techniques, various types of compositions, and enjoy music. We certainly don’t expect many to necessarily make music their career.”
However, some do.
“Two recent exceptions … are Madeline Bouissou, a cellist at Juilliard, and Mattie Joyner, a quadruple-threat senior who has already received several acceptances at major musical theater universities.” She’s outstanding in violin, voice, drama, and dance.
On March 8, 9, 10, 15, and 16, Ms. Flanagan and students from her choral groups will be performing Les Misérables. This will be Ridgefield High School’s 35th musical and the 30th for Ms. Flanagan.
“This will be the biggest musical production we have ever undertaken,” she said. “It is going to be spectacular. The musical 42nd Street was our biggest production prior to Les Misérables. This is not to be missed.”
Ms. Flanagan is also known for her traveling musical groups that go abroad or to Florida every other year. Next year it will be Disney World.
“Disney loves our professionalism and spirit,” said Ms. Flanagan. “Each year we also send more and more students to the state competitions. This year we sent 30.”
RHS ensembles that are classes for high school credit are Concert Band (also referred to at times as Wind Ensemble), the Jazz Band, the Concert Choir, and the Orchestra (string players only)
Co-curricular and extracurricular music groups are Symphony Orchestra (for wind and percussion players; it is part of the Orchestra class for strings), Pep Band/Marching Band, Pit Orchestra, Nightingales, A Capella 8, and Madrigal Singers.
With all the budget cuts recently, the music department always welcomes support from the community. Just this year, Music Matters was founded to help raise money for supplies and equipment in the schools.
Music Matters, which describes itself as a “district-wide music booster club,” hopes to raise money for a new set of timpani drums, costing around $16,000, acoustic shells for the stage, new music and computer softwear, and electronic pianos.
For more information about the group, visit ridgefieldmusicmatters.com.