On May 12th, for the first time ever, the Spring Creek Youth Orchestra participated in the New York State School Music Association’s (NYSSMA) 2018 Festival at Marine Park IS 278. This event invites music educators and students of every skill level to show off their instrumental and vocal ensembles, which is then critiqued by judges. NYSSMA is an organization focused on advancing and advocating for musical education across the state. According to their press release, “NYSSMA holds hundreds of solo and ensemble festivals state-wide each year. Over 100,000 students are adjudicated at these festivals. Approximately 2,000 music educators converge each December for the annual All State/Winter Conference for professional development opportunities, seminars, clinics and performances by its nine all state instrumental and vocal ensembles. Approximately 900 students perform in these ensembles.”
The Spring Creek Youth Orchestra’s percussion section, specifically Eric Aguero, Arony Aguero, and Elissa Robinson, were among the thousands of students participating in the festival. “We felt it was time to test their skills and have an independent judge critique them,” said Spring Creek Youth Orchestra’s Conductor, Mark Thrasher. Both Thrasher and Percussion Instructor, Martin Fisher, believed that their preteen drummers were veterans of their program, and needed to take their talents to the next level.
“I’m so proud of them because they are not only the first in our program to be a part of the NYSSMA Festival, but they also received a perfect score, which I take no credit for. These guys worked hard and earned it,” said Fisher.
All three students performed individual snare drum solos for a judge, who evaluated their tone, technique, accuracy, interpretation, and musicianship. In each section, the children achieved four points (which signifies “Exceeds Expectations”) for a total proficiency score of 28 points. “I’ve seen a change in all three students since coming back from getting that great score. There is a confidence in them that has changed for the better,” Fisher said.
“I was pretty nervous at first, but the judge was nice and after achieving that perfect score, it really boosted my confidence. It made me feel like I could achieve anything in music and in school,” Elissa Robinson, 12, said proudly.
Learning to play the drums is no easy task. In fact, the drums are probably one of the most coveted instruments to learn because of the Hollywood glamour around them, such as films like Drumline or Whiplash. However, when Robinson joined the Spring Creek Youth Symphony, she realized that it was a lot different from the movies—it was harder and takes a lot of practice. “I thought it was some-thing completely different, but I still enjoyed it because I got to learn something new. I’ve learned some-thing pretty cool that I can show my friends and make new ones be-cause it’s the perfect ice breaker. I can start a conversation with ‘Do you know how to play an instrument’ and then make friends with them,” Robinson said.
Robinson credits her friendship with the Aguero brothers as to why she joined the Spring Creek Youth Orchestra and started to learn how to play the drums. “I told my friend, Arony, how much I liked the drums and he told me I could play them at the Youth Orchestra,” Robinson said.
Both Eric and Arony Aguero truly enjoy music. They hear beats and rhythms in a way that only future artists can. So when 12-year-old Arony Aguero joined his school band, his little brother followed shortly after. These young brothers were both interested in playing the keyboard, but since the Youth Orchestra stopped teaching piano they gravitated towards the drums.
“I like the drums because they are loud and fun to play,” said rony. He finds that learning new ensembles are difficult at first, but with a lot of practice and hand-eye coordination, he is able to pick up the dynamics and rhythm.
Eric Aguero, 10, loves being a part of the Youth Orchestra be-cause he gets to perform in con-certs with his friends and play his favorite instrument. “The drums are a nice sounding instrument; whenever I hear one of my favorite songs it most likely has a drum in it. I just really like the sound,” Eric Aguero said.
In addition to learning a musical skill, Eric Aguero has developed a helpful regiment for himself to balance school and afterschool activities. He always makes sure to study and to finish his homework first, and then relaxes for a while. He then takes out his drumming pad and practices for about 45-minutes every week.
The three friends all joined the Youth Orchestra when they were elementary students at PS 346. Now that they are in different middle schools, they can still stay connected when they meet up for practice or concerts.
The Spring Creek Youth Symphony is a program that has existed in the Spring Creek Towers’ community for about 26 years. Registration starts in the fall, and all children interested in joining must be attending PS 346, IS 364, Frederick Douglas Academy VIII and SCT residents in grades 3-8. For more information contact Eurydice Robinson at 718-240-4530.
Photos by Amanda Moses