The Final Bow
Stevens’s Last Pops Concert
March 22, 2016
Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.
Email This Story
by Samie Mitchell
GREAT BARRINGTON— On Friday, March 7th at 7PM, the Monument Concert Band and Jazz Ensemble prepared themselves for a night that was sure to be a whirlwind of music and memories. The Pops Concert, a long-standing Monument tradition, has always been known as the biggest concert of each school year, but this year, it was bound to be even bigger. The 34th Annual Monument Pops Concert was to be the last of musical director Jeff Stevens’s career.
The crowd for a Winter or Spring Concert is made up of mostly parents and doesn’t typically exceed 200 people. But when Jeff Stevens took the stage Friday night with the Concert Band, a crowd of over 600 parents, BHRSD staff, Monument band alumni, and community members got to their feet clapping before the music even began. Senior Emma Adler commented on the record-breaking size of the crowd. “Seeing the number of people who came out to support him and us was thrilling.” The concert opened with Ode for Trumpet by Alfred Reed, and featured Stevens’s playing the first solo he learned in his career when he was a sophomore at Monument. Even though it was the first piece, it received the second standing ovation of the night.
Other features included a brilliant trumpet trio between Stevens, senior William Serkin, and sophomore Richard Stanmeyer. Guest conductor Michael Gillespie led the band, and after a two-bar count in, the trumpeters took off on a wild ride that was Bugler’s Holiday by Leroy Anderson. Says Serkin, “It was an entirely different style of playing that took a lot of work to get together, but was amazing when it finally fit properly.”
The Concert Band’s set also included highlights from Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Springs, and a program piece called Northwoods: of Might and Mettle by Robert Smith. This piece took the audience on a journey of a late 1800s logging camp, and featured the trombone section at the end of the story. Principal trombonist Kevin Costello said, “[Northwoods] was my favorite song of the set. Mr Stevens let me go all out for that song and play as loud as I could.” As the last piece of the Concert set, the song definitely engaged the crowd, and got them ready for the energy of what was to come.
After a brief intermission, the Jazz Ensemble took the stage. The ensemble started with a high energy piece called High Maintenance, which opened with Mitch Zimmer on bass, introduced a catchy, fast-paced melody, and built up to a dazzling finish. And if the energy was at its peak then, it got even higher when Stevens introduced Wanda Houston, Robert Putnum, Robert Kelley, and Jay Bradley.
The special guests, all friends of Stevens, played a variety of songs both with and without the Jazz Ensemble. “We are so lucky to have the opportunity to make music with renowned musicians. There is truly nothing like it,” says Emma Adler, a senior who plays in both the Concert Band and the Jazz Ensemble. The charts included Michael Buble’s rendition of Clyde Otis’s Baby You’ve Got What it Takes, which took the form as a duet between Rob Putnam and Wanda Houston. But the real fun of the evening kicked in when Stevens, musically accompanied by the Ensemble, sang Frank Sinatra’s Let’s Get Away From It All as a tribute to his retirement. Everyone felt the emotion rise as the night went on, not only seniors in the band as well as band alumni in the audience, but the freshmen as well. Freshman alto saxophone player Jack Bertelli commented on what his first Pops Concert experience was like. “Being on stage was invigorating, and knowing that we were playing for a community that supports us was a feeling like no other. My first pops concert, which is also Mr. Stevens’ last, will certainly be my most memorable.”
It was a night to be remembered by all 592 people who attended, and even by Stevens himself. “We did it,” said Stevens to the band the following Monday morning. “This concert is definitely in my top five that I’ve ever played in.”
To see Stevens in action for the last time as the conductor of the Concert Band and Jazz Ensemble, come see the Spring Concert May 15th at 7PM in the MMRHS auditorium.