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Washington Irving’s Fifth Grade Band Rehearses With A Special Visitor

Members of the Washington Irving fifth grade band had the opportunity to experience new techniques and learn from a different conductor at a recent rehearsal. Aaron Burgess, an Adjunct Professor of Conducting and Music Education at Ithaca College, joined the group as a guest conductor. WI music teacher and band leader Abigail Ferri invited Mr. Burgess to work with her students so that they could get a fresh perspective on their concert music in preparation for their May 25th concert. 

“I think it is really important for students to be exposed to as many different conductors and rehearsal styles as early as possible, and Mr. Burgess is one of the most dynamic and exciting conductors I with whom I have worked,” said Ms. Ferri.

Introducing Mr. Burgess to the kids, Ms. Ferri warmed them up with scales and a pep talk to ‘play with their most beautiful sound, because when we breathe together we play together.’ Ms. Ferri then let the kids show their stuff as they practiced Ode To Joy and Stormchasing. 

“So much of working with the younger kids is routine,“ Mr. Burgess said laughing after helping one of the percussionists find their mallet at the start of the rehearsal. “But they are so eager to learn.” 

Once Mr. Burgess stepped to the podium, the children were captivated. He imparted several new skills including how a crescendo should work and stringing notes so they flow together.  He continuously praised the students, calling them rockstars and encouraging them to ‘foot clap’  - basically stomping their feet - when they nailed the crescendo.

Maddie, Jake, Alejandro and Lorelei from the percussion section were brimming with excitement as they awaited Mr. Burgess at rehearsal, “It will be fun because we’ve never had a guest conductor, but we have conducted each other,” said Maddie.

While currently working with college students, Mr. Burgess is very comfortable with elementary school children, as he worked in music education for 11 years with grades 4-12 prior to joining the faculty at Ithaca. Ms. Ferri and Mr. Burgess met while they were studying at Ithaca, him for his Masters and her for her undergraduate degree in Music Education.

“All kids have their own unique quirks and strengths, but kids this age group are like sponges, so excited to be here and really fun to work with,” said Mr. Burgess.

“We are very excited to showcase all of our students hard work,” said Ms. Ferri. “The band is performing for only the second time since Covid began and they are so happy to be back performing in front of an audience.”