Academy Concert Bands Perform Diverse Repertoire in Final Concert of the Year

Songs ranging from “A Festival Prelude” by Alfred Reed to selections from “Pirates of the Caribbean” rang in Cochran Chapel as the Academy Concert Bands played an eclectic collection of songs last Friday. No specific theme was chosen for the concert, providing a unique experience for both students and the audience.

Mr. Daniels, conductor of the Concert Band, curated the four pieces that were performed. In particular, “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night,” by Elliot Del Borgo, stood out musically and personally to him. The piece, inspired by Dylan Thomas’s poem of the same name, transforms the themes of life and death from the poem into music, which resonated deeply with Daniels.

“[Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night] is just a very challenging piece. It goes through a lot of emotions. It’s about going from life to death. And so it has embedded in it different hymns, but it’s also aleatoric. It’s lots of clashing sounds and things that don’t seemingly go together. Now, both of those pieces, the second piece and the middle piece, have to do with mortality. So, there’s also a personal reason why I picked those pieces… My dad is 92 and my daughters and I have been kind of talking about my father passing away and how we deal with death and life,” said Daniels.

Following this piece, Daniels hoped to contrast its somber tone by ending the concert on a bright note with music from the “Pirates of the Caribbean.” He elaborated on the importance of an ensemble’s enthusiasm for a piece, and his own creative expression as a conductor and musician.

“The music is great. The audience loves that piece. But more than anything, the ensemble loves to play that piece. And I needed something that was fun and light compared to something that was a little bit more serious and heavy. So, just trying to reach a lot of emotional spaces but also reaching a lot of different people and wherever they are, and again, my own personal journey with it… I’m an artist and so this, my work here, is part of my artwork. So not only just an educator, but I exercise my artistic will,” said Daniels.

This year also concludes Mr. Daniels’ first year conducting the Concert Band. With his positive and energetic approach, he has fostered a supportive and motivated environment, helping students practice and perform together well. Shixun Song ’26, a saxophonist in the ensemble, commented on Mr. Daniels’ teaching style.

“Mr. Daniels [is] an amazing musician and has a tremendous amount of experience. During a rehearsal, he told us how the Boston Pops sometimes ask him to conduct. I’ve played alto sax in the band during the last two years and will probably continue in the next few years,” said Song.

Preparation was challenging considering rehearsals were only once per week in the spring, when many students were especially busy with various other commitments. Anny Wang ’26 echoed this, finding that Daniels’ enthusiasm was able to boost attendance.

“At first the band had like all the seniors not here because of senior spring, so it was a little bit brutal. A lot of freshmen quit [too]. We had maybe one third of the people showing up. At first, it was really bad, but I think later on Mr. Daniels was able to persuade everyone to come back and it actually went really well [in] the end. I think Mr. Daniels is a very passionate band director and I respect him a lot,” said Wang.

Looking ahead, the Academy Concert Band will be renamed to the Academy Wind Ensemble, reflecting the band’s increase in virtuosity. The Tuesday Band will remain the same. Song expressed excitement towards this change, which he hopes will increase the ensemble’s reception on campus through more performance opportunities.

“I hope the audience can hear all of the hard work and dedication we’ve put into the music. Very few people come to the band concerts compared to other concerts, and I really hope that if people liked the music, they’ll bring more people to the next concert… There have been plans for us to play at ASM next year, and I’m really looking forward to it,” said Song.