Band director stresses ‘high quality music’

By Audrey Clark
Citizen Chronicle Writer

SOUTHBRIDGE — Toes were tapping and heads were nodding along as local library patrons enjoyed a free concert put on by high school musicians on Thursday night.

The Southbridge High School Jazz Band treated patrons at the Jacob Edwards library with delightful blend of everything from ragtime to contemporary songs. The fresh Latin beat of the opening piece, “Night in Havana,” was an audience favorite.

Trombone player Juliana Beaudry, a SHS freshman, said she loves performing with the school jazz band.

“It’s fun and I like the people,” she said. “It’s also relaxing.”

The high school jazz band consists of nine high quality musicians from Grades 9-12. For Dr. Arthur Thovmasian, the band’s director, that quality is instrumental.

“My expectation is high quality music,” he said. “I am not just teaching high school musicians, I am teaching professional musicians.”

Those expectations were met recently when Marcus Gonzalez, a junior, participated in the Massachusetts Music Educators Association Central District Band and received an All-State recommendation for his trumpet skill.

Dr. Thovmasian noted that his student musicians are among the most successful in the building. “The best students in the school are in the band,” he said. “We aren’t perfect but I teach progress over perfection.”

Prior to Thursday evening’s free concert, Dr. Thovmasian discussed the importance of the band program in the schools. Since he began directing at Southbridge High School about 18 months ago, the concert band has nearly doubled in members. Asked about his motivation for leading the group, he said: “I remember learning music when I was in high school, and I want my students to take away some of what I did.”

Tenor saxophonist Najum Soofi agreed and expressed his pleasure in being able to play for the community.

“We get a lot of opportunities to perform like this one,” he said.

Performing for the community is a part of a reciprocal relationship in the eyes of Dr. Thovmasian. He said community support is crucial to the band program thriving.

“The best way the community can help is with attending concerts and performances and advocating for our program,” the band director explained. “One thing that is imperative to improving the band program is having a band teacher in the elementary schools.”

Attending concerts like Thursday night’s event at the library will be an option for the community in the next several weeks. On Friday, March 9, the Southbridge Middle/High School jazz and concert bands will be performing at 7 p.m. as part of Students With Artistic Gifts (SWAG) Night. Dr. Thomvasian said SAWG Night will be a display of the high school’s arts programs. The bands will also be featured in Worcester’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade down Park Avenue on Sunday, March 11.

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