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Uncovering the Artists: From Start to Stage
Emily Pajak '21 Associate Editor and Christina Li '20 Staff Writer
February 26, 2020

Behind every great performance lies weeks of hard work and practice. Though the workings behind the scenes are often overlooked, immense effort is required to produce a flawless, crowd-pleasing performance. Most recently, student music groups on campus worked on pieces for Deerfield’s new Battle of the Bands concert. From groups big and small, new and old, the process to prepare for a performance requires lots of time and dedication. 

Nine musicians, unofficially known, at times, as Holden and the Woodwards and other times as AHC DC, are among the numerous contestants who worked for weeks to secure the top spot at the BOTB on February 21st, 2020. Among them, Sam Thiel ’22 playing the baritone saxophone; Holden Woodward ’22 on the trumpet; Giles Gordon ’22 on the piano; Josh Oduro ’20 on the bass; Jerry Zhou ’22 on the drums; Will Yang ’22 on the electric guitar; Malcolm Rich ’20 on the violin; Philips He ’21 on the alto saxophone.  

Holden and the Woodwards found their beginning as a music service band in the beginning of Winter 2019.  Director of the Orchestra—and the music cocurricular—Thomas Bergeron, encouraged the group of students to start a band and rehearse together. The group hit it off, initially simply enjoying the creative process that goes into composing music.

In preparation for the BOTB, the group worked on composing and practicing arrangements. Thiel described composing arrangements as a process that “tends to be mostly adapting multiple other arrangements into one arrangement, then making it unique to the band.” 

Specifically, Thiel uses “MuseScore”, a music composition and notation software, to get down their arrangements, which stem from a mix of the melodic elements of prewritten scores by other people put together. Yang also helps to arrange some music by ear, adding drum fill and flourish for horns, to make different parts of every piece harmoniously satisfying .

In the competition, due to indecision about which song the group prefered, the band performed two medleys. A medley is a piece composed of two or more pre-existing songs. The band’s first medley was a mix of “Lone Digger” by Caravan Palace and the “Dummy” theme song from the video game Undertale. The second was an ear-catching medley of “Smooth” by Santana and “Havana” by Camila Cabello. 

The “Lone”/”Dummy” medley takes the melody of “Dummy” and laces it with the melody of “Lone Digger.” Because of the intricacies involved in combining these two musical pieces with pre-existing harmonies and tones, composing a medley is a complex process. However, Thiel revealed that the atmosphere when composing is actually very relaxed. 

According to Thiel, the process typically includes “chilling in the studio, doodling on the computer, separating the piece into parts, and hitting export.”

The next step to creating a successful band is frequent, focused, and efficient rehearsals. A typical afternoon for the band consists of a 4:30 p.m. music service rehearsal. Each member is expected to practice on their own beforehand. Afterwards, the group begins to bring the arrangements to life, playing and editing them as needed. 

Especially in the beginning stages of a new arrangement, a lot of time is spent on each person practicing their individual parts in the arrangement, before putting all instruments together. The band works through every aspect of the arrangement to smooth out any kinks in the music before bringing it to the stage.

The band’s goal in the BOTB was primarily to win. However, they were just as eager to share the product of their hard work with the school, and were ecstatic about the opportunity to record their music in a professional recording studio. The band won the “Best Arrangement” award for the “Lone”/ “Dummy” medley, with Oduro ’20 winning the “MVP” award.

Looking towards the future, Thiel describes that “We hope to wind down following the competition by focusing on easier musical competitions, and meme music.”