The Young People’s Concert at North High

For the last couple of weeks, students in band, orchestra, and chorus were busy preparing for a very special concert, called “The Young People’s Concert.” This concert invites fifth-graders from JFK, Saddle Rock, and Baker elementary schools to listen to North High’s Orchestra perform. This tradition has been going on for over 30 years, having started with Mr. Rutkowski’s  first year of teaching music at North High.

The Young People’s Concert aims to show younger students what music is all about. Fifth grade is typically the second year that students have been playing their instruments, and having the opportunity to watch the high school music department can offer inspiration and excitement for their upcoming years. 

Young People’s concert from the school year 2016-2017. These are the current sophomores as 5th graders (Credit: Mr. Rutkowski).

Freshman violinist Kattie Huang recalled her experience of watching The Young People’s Concert. 

“I remember attending the young people’s concert when I was in fifth grade and it was very inspirational,” Huang said. “I was very eager to join the high school orchestra full of professional and dedicated players.” 

Young People’s Concert from 2011. These 5th graders are now 22 years old (Credit: Mr. Rutkowski).

Additionally, high school students have a marvelous experience as well. 

“It was cool to see the fifth graders and reminisce about my early playing years,” Alex Zhuang, a junior at North High and cellist, said. “I am so happy that I had the chance to spread my love for music to the younger generation.” 

Initially, during the January regents break Mr. Rutkowski would bring all the high school players to each elementary school over three or four days.

“I made all the players wear tuxedos and gowns, so when they all got off the bus, the little kids thought we were New York Philharmonic,” Mr. Rutkowski remembered.

However, January regents slowly stopped being implemented, so all the elementary schools, as well as the high school players, would gather at Saddle Rock. Over the years, it was decided that the elementary school students would come to the high school which ended up being more time-efficient and less of a hassle for everyone.

This year the high school orchestra played several pieces, including Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Die Meistersinger by Richard Wagner. Also, North High’s very own Raffi Froundjian conducted “Carmen No. 5ed Les Toreadors” by Georges Bizet.

The high school band played “La Boheme” by Giacomo Puccini and “Italian in Algiers” by Gioacchino Rossini.

Mr. Rutkowksi reflected on this performance, as a whole. 

“I think it is great for the 5th graders to have this experience,” Mr. Rutkowski said. “When I first came here, there were only 29 people in the band and 16 in the orchestra. That’s it! The implementation of the Young People’s concert got the 5th graders to realize that if you keep playing you’ll be able to sound and look like this.”

Young People’s Concert that was held in January (Image credit: Mr. Rutkowski).

Later that day, another really important concert that took place was Artfest. This event provides opportunities for seniors to play a solo along with an orchestral accompaniment. Seniors can have their time on stage where they can showcase the skills and talents that they have nurtured over their many years of practicing and performing.

The soloing seniors were Emily Wei who played “Gypsy Airs” by Pablo de Saraste and Joshua Li who played “Violin Concerto No. 3” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Jason Mei also arranged and conducted Nintendo Medley, a music track that features songs from Nintendo Land. Songs included: “Pokemon Ruby”, “Gold”, “Diamond” and “Super Mario Galaxy” by Hitomi Soto, Koji Kondo, and Go Ichinose.

Along with these amazing performances, the band and orchestra department also replayed the pieces from the Young People’s Concert, but this time with their parents as the audience. Another throwback piece was also added to the mix that brought us all back to November: the final musical acts from the play “Into the Woods.”

These last two concerts marked the end of the school year and Mr. Rutkowski’s final year at North High. On behalf of the entire music department, we would like to thank him for his unending dedication and constant support for his students.