PVRS band earns spot during NBA halftime show in Boston
NORTHFIELD — When the bell rings just before 8 a.m. three to four days a week, dozens of students have already taken their seats and warmed up — they’re ready to go and they’re happy to be there.
The trumpets begin and then Pioneer Valley Regional School Music Director Nathan Holesovsky asks the clarinets to join in. Before you know it, all of the horns, woodwinds and percussion are playing, hitting the marcatos, a musical instruction indicating a note, chord or passage be played louder or more forcefully than the rest of the music, in unison — well, most of the time.
When they’re not, he makes them do it again, but they don’t mind.
“I’m looking for articulation,” their dynamic leader yells out. “From 25, again. Everybody!”
The PVRS high school marching band is rehearsing for its January trip to Boston and its director of nine years and his students are hard at work, perfecting the songs that will become part of their halftime show when they take the TD Garden court when the Boston Celtics play the Houston Rockets.
“A parent has some connections and was able to get us an audition,” said Holesovsky.
When the 49 students who make up the band, including their two drum majors, take the court on Jan. 11, they will play Dropkick Murphy’s “I’m Shipping Up to Boston,” the recently popular “Party Rock Anthem,” by LMFAO, and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones,’ “The Impressions That I Get,” along with a couple of other pieces.
The marching band has had a very eventful fall, but this performance will probably stick in each member’s mind the longest, said Holesovsky.
The marching band took part, just this fall alone, in the Franklin County Fair Parade, the Big E Parade, Bernardston’s 250th Anniversary Parade and the Orange Harvest Parade, as well as many sporting events at Pioneer.
The band is composed of students in grades 9 through 12 from many county towns, including Northfield, Leyden, Bernardston, Warwick and Greenfield.
Adam LeBlanc, who plays trumpet, and Brianna L’Ecuyer, who plays clarinet and is one of the drum majors this year, said this is the highlight of their high school band career.
The two said they have competed many times over the past four years, but have never performed for so many people at one time, in one place.
“We’ve never done this big a show,” said L’Ecuryer.
“We’ve gone on some major trips to Virginia and Ohio to compete in Heritage Music festivals, but nothing like this,” said LeBlanc.
And the concert band, which consists of the members of the marching band, did well in many of those competitions — it has taken home the gold and silver.
“This is going to be different, though,” said LeBlanc. “In concert band, we sit and play. In marching band, we have to coordinate our movements with the music.”
“There’s an entertainment factor here,” said L’Ecuyer. “And we are going to be entertaining a lot more people than we ever have. In competitions it’s just the judges.”
The two seniors said the stakes are much higher, they feel, in performing at TD Garden, because the students who take the court will be representing Pioneer and trying to “make a name” for the school.
“That’s a lot of responsibility,” she said.
Both seniors said they’d also like to leave a legacy for those students who follow.
“Hopefully, this will get more people to join in years to come,” said LeBlanc.
Maria Emanuelli, who plays tenor saxophone, said she is extremely excited — she is a 15-year-old freshman.
“It would be great to be known as a really good band,” she said. “I would love to hear people say, ‘Oh, that’s Pioneer. They’re awesome!’ ”
Malcolm Crosby, a 15-year-old sophomore who plays the trombone, said he can’t wait to take the Celtics’ court.
Many of the band members have been playing since they were young.
“I love this, even though it is going to be a much larger stage than we are used to,” said percussionist Greg Betsold, a 17-year-old senior. “Thousands of people are going to be watching us and expecting something. We’ve got to give it to them, so we have to work really hard.”
Holesovsky, who grew up in Belchertown and got his degree in music education at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, said the band will play five numbers during the halftime show.
“This is such an honor,” he said. “They are working really hard, both with the music and to raise money to get there.”
Holesovsky said though there will be no one rating or judging the marching band, he believes his students will be judging themselves.
“This is going to be a large audience on a big stage,” he said.
The band has been spending all of its time in the band room, learning the music, but Holesovsky said now that Thanksgiving is over, the students will take to the gymnasium floor to learn the moves that will go along with it.
“Music is always first,” he said. “These are popular tunes that kids like, so I think the fans will like them, too.”
Holesovsky said the band is a good one and is doing a great job this year.
He said he works with students straight through from seventh grade. “I get most of these kids for six years and I get to see them develop,” said 35-year-old Holesovsky. “They work really hard and deserve to be recognized like this.”
The music director said of all of the experiences they’ve had, band members are likely to remember the Celtics game as one of the best.
“Band is just a wonderful thing by nature,” he said. “When many of us think about our high school days, we don’t remember much, but band members always remember their band trips.”
The marching band is currently selling raffle tickets to raise money for transportation to the event.
Tickets are $5 each or six for $25 and the winner will get two seats at the Celtics-Rockets game, as well as two coach bus seats to the game (a $300 value).
The winner will be drawn on Dec. 20.
Holesovsky said the group is also looking for business and individual sponsorships to assist with costs.
Anyone interested in sponsoring the marching band or buying a raffle ticket should contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.