With the importance of connections being central to the mission of Allendale Columbia School, we treasure opportunities for collaboration across members of our community. On Friday, March 1st, students, teachers, staff, administrators, and family members came together in a special after-school event to build connections through music-making as a band. This side-by-side concert was coordinated by instrumental music teachers Lynn Grossman and Gabe Costanzo.
What is a side-by-side concert?
Side-by-side concerts are opportunities for musicians of various ages and ability levels to get together to perform together as a group and learn from each other while celebrating learning and growth in a fun, low-stress environment. In this event, parents, older siblings, grandparents, extended family, and family friends were all invited. School faculty, staff, and administrators were also welcome to join in the fun.
What took place?
After school, students and their special guests set up their instruments together in the band room and took their places by instrument section. While this band may have seemed somewhat “non-traditional,” with additions like orchestral string instruments and guitar, the motto was, “All are welcome!” In total, 32 people participated in the event, including 15 students, 10 family members, and 7 faculty and staff members.
Siblings Bryn ’27 and Shane Whiteside ’24 both participated in the event. “If we didn’t have the side-by-side concert,” said Bryn, a 4th grade oboist, “I wouldn’t get to play with my brother Shane until he was in 12th grade and I was in 9th because we are three years apart. And that would be only one year together in band. I felt so happy to play with him!”
“I am very grateful for the side-by-side concert because it allowed me to help Bryn learn how to play some of the pieces,” Shane added. “It also gave me the experience of creating music with a family member on stage.”
Since this was the first time this group had ever played together – and the first time some of the members had played their instruments in decades, the rehearsal got underway with a few brief warm-up tunes: melodies and basslines of the tunes “London Bridge” or “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Soon enough, the group delved into its more challenging pieces, “When the Saints Go Marching In” and a march for band called “Milky Way March” by Tom Molter, both of which were performed at the conclusion of the event.
After a break for pizza dinner together, the ensemble regrouped to refine its work on the march and incorporate their creativity into the performance of “Saints.” The group created a unique arrangement of “Saints” by taking a musical risk: improvising melodies on instruments over the bass-line. The creativity was so successful, the group decided to incorporate improvised sections into their performance, alternating between playing the tune “as written” and creating their own variation.
Listen to AC’s Side-by-Side Concert: “When the Saints Go Marching In”
Despite the mix of ages and abilities, there were opportunities for everyone to stretch their skills and musicianship. For some, improvisation was a skill they had never tried.
I loved remembering how it feels when you are learning something new. I felt a little scared, nervous, excited, and vulnerable all at the same time! I was reminded that our kiddos have this feeling daily. It’s always good to have an opportunity to see the world from their view.
– Annie King, 2nd grade Teacher
For younger musicians who are developing their reading skills, putting together a full band piece requires perseverance. Grouping notes in music to recognize patterns is like reading with fluency. Some experienced a breakthrough in rehearsal:
“Before I could learn how to play ‘Milky Way March’ right, I had to be challenged by it. At first, I couldn’t read it at all. I had to calm myself down and try it. I started playing, and it wasn’t before [the piece] was over that I realized I was reading it! I had never actually read music before without focusing on each individual note. It was like half of my brain didn’t know what note to play, and the other half was already playing it!”
– Nora Murray ’27, a beginner clarinetist
Listen to Side-by-Side Concert: “Milky Way March”
At the heart of the event was the hope that participants would go home feeling inspired by the work they had accomplished together as a team, with an emphasis on the process (trying new things, taking risks, and working together) over “the product” (the final performance). In the concert, family members who did not participate on an instrument were welcome to come onstage and stand or sit next to their performer and experience the feeling of being on stage with the group. It was heartwarming to see families, coworkers, and friends brought together to forge new connections and a deeper feeling of community through music.
I thought the side-by-side event was absolutely amazing, and it brought such joy to my heart that evening. What an incredible opportunity for parents and family members who haven’t picked up their instruments in years to enjoy cherished moments with their young family members. I think that we will be having many more holiday play-alongs and impromptu playing sessions now that we have discovered the fun we can have together!
– Katrina Karas (aunt of Heidi Duran ’26).
Lynn GrossmanLynn Grossman specializes in elementary general and instrumental music education. She studied bassoon performance and music education at the Eastman School of Music where she earned both her bachelor's degree and master's degree, and she taught K-2 music in the East Irondequoit School District for eight years. Lynn is the President of the New York Chapter of the Gordon Institute for Music Learning (NY-GIML), which provides professional learning opportunities to music educators. She has co-presented her work in the US and the UK and is co-author of a chapter in Envisioning Music Teacher Education (Rowman and Littlefield). She enjoys professional collaboration and research in music education and enjoys teaching music to AC's Pre-Primary and Lower School students!
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