BLS Musicians Impress at Senior Districts


The senior districts band rehearses before their performance. (Source: Ms. Margaret McKenna)

On January 7, 442 students from over 30 high schools in the greater Boston area convened for the Massachusetts Music Educators Association (MMEA) Eastern District Senior Festival at Boston Latin School. The performers spent two days at BLS, with a rehearsal on January 6 that lasted eight hours and a performance on January 7 that lasted four hours.

26 of the selected students were BLS musicians: 12 vocal, eight winds and percussion, five strings and one jazz. All four voice parts and ten unique instruments from BLS were represented in performances. Additionally, half of the selected performers from BLS were given All-State recommendations. The All-State Concert will take place on March 4 at Symphony Hall.

BLS has hosted the MMEA Eastern District Festivals since the creation of the Eastern District in the early 2000s. The Eastern District is comprised of multiple cities in the Greater Boston area, including Boston, Cambridge and Brookline.

This festival was the first in-person event hosted by the MMEA Eastern District since 2020. When asked about the pandemic’s effect on planning the event, BLS Music Department Program Director Ms. Margaret McKenna says, “It’s another layer of precautions that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.” 

Even though faculty spent hours carefully planning this event, no one could have anticipated the fire alarm that went off around noon on rehearsal day. Head of School Jason Gallagher later announced that there was no real threat in the building, but the evacuation created unexpected chaos.

Even with hundreds of additional students in the school, Ms. McKenna says, “The students that were here were fantastic.” This interruption did not disrupt the motivation of the student performers, who were able to resume rehearsal soon after re-entering the building.

The gathering of hundreds of passionate musicians created an extremely welcoming atmosphere at BLS. Students were able to collaborate with others who share the same musical talent and passion. Justin Gao (III), a trombone player, expresses, “It was nice playing with different people from different schools.”

Performers had to learn multiple pieces for the audition and the festival. Some pieces even had several movements. Cora Maddox (I), a soprano for BLS Concert Choir, remarks, “Our setlist was meticulously chosen to convey a specific message; it was all about pushing through challenges and celebrating our resilience.”

Both Gao and Ms. McKenna noted that their favorite performance was “Come Sunday.” This piece, written by Omar Thomas, draws inspiration from Southern Black churches and worship. Ms. McKenna says, “It’s really joyful and beautiful, and the band played it so well. It sounded amazing.”

Despite the tumult caused by an unexpected fire alarm, Senior District participants remained focused and worked together to produce impressive performances.