by Dennis Zhang '20
When Dennis and his peers started the music club, they knew that practice and performance would be on the agenda. It was where they chose to hold their first performance that made the club extraordinary.
When my peers, Kyle Huang '20, Mia Huang '20 and Ryan Hu '20, reached out to me with this idea of the music club performing for the elderly at Meadow Lakes, a senior center adjacent to Peddie’s athletic center, I happily hopped on board, not knowing what to expect.
It’s easy to dream; getting things done is a different story. As Peddie students who are constantly bombarded with tight academic, athletic and extracurricular agendas, we needed to keep in mind the convenience of ourselves and others when carrying out this type of task.
Immediately after returning from winter break, the music club got to work. While Kyle and Mia, superb musicians that qualified for the NJ State Orchestra, led performance assignments and rehearsals, Ryan and I handled the organization and documentation of the event. Most importantly, the other musicians in the club took the initiative to practice their assigned pieces. Some of them would be performing their first public recitals. Some would be playing their first solos. Some of them were veterans to the public performance scene and were simply experimenting further.
The big day, January 21, was preceded by a week of last-minute rehearsals. When Mr. Michaels finally drove us to Meadow Lakes, we eagerly carried stands, instruments and music to our performance room.
The room was relatively small, but jam-packed with audience members. When our first performers stepped in and Ryan, acting as our announcer, introduced them, a solemn air overtook the chatty, noise-filled one that had preceded it. Within a few minutes of their performance, however, the room dynamic changed yet again. Over the course of ten musical pieces, acting as the event’s photographer, I was fortunate enough to see and hear the reactions of the audience up close. In between my intermittent shutter clicks and movements throughout the room, I noticed an array of emotions in the audience. The subtle bobbing of heads during Rocketeer, the sincere, heartfelt stares throughout You Raise Me Up, and the roaring applause - that slowly gained momentum after each successive piece - all conveyed the growing excitement of our audience.
When our last performance concluded, warm applause welcomed our 14 musicians who entered the room one last time. The room felt different. It looked different too; there were more smiles then than half an hour earlier.
All of our performers had made time out of their extraordinarily packed schedules, already filled with orchestra and musical performances, to go beyond what Peddie demanded of them. But it wasn’t about the time spent. Nor the effort. The force that drove this endeavor was the fun of performing with friends that love music and have the will to give back.
Ryan, Kyle and I all have somewhat personal connections to Meadow Lakes. As mid-distance runners on the track team, we frequently train along the roads that zip through the complex. Seeing our coach and faculty member, Mark Gartner '84, smiling in the event’s audience, along with Mrs. Gartner, Mr. Harris and Mr. Mariboe, was our favorite collective moment.
It was thrilling.