College Park Choir and Chorale 1
The College Park Choir and Chorale is one of five ensembles to perform at Northwestern High School on March 3. The concert blended children musicians with adult singers.
Photo credit: LillianGlaros

Performers of all ages, from white-bearded singers to tiny violinists whose feet did not reach the ground, gathered March 3 at Northwestern High School for a winter concert.

The concert started with a boisterous performance of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” punctuated with the chimes of a xylophone, by the College Park Youth Band, which consists of sixth- to eighth-graders.

Sarah Winston, the band’s director, followed the opening number with a trombone-infused version of “Turkish March” before the students grooved to the more modern vibe of “Soul Rock,” which featured fast, military-style drumming. 

The band kicked off the annual concert, which also featured performances from four other groups: a Primary Ensemble and an Intermediate Ensemble, whose performers are in late elementary school through high school; the College Park Youth Orchestra’s Chamber Ensemble, with many students who previously performed with the other groups; and an adult College Park Choir and Chorale.

Winston said the youth band, which started in 2018, gives students without music programs at their schools an opportunity to play instruments together. The band is open to students who have a couple of years of experience.

Nicola Netto White, a College Park resident whose seventh-grader plays percussion, said she likes the opportunities the band offers to the children. 

Netto White said her daughter enjoys playing instruments and was in band in middle school, “but we thought this would give a different, varied experience.”

Following the youth band’s performance, the Primary Ensemble of the College Park Youth Orchestra played two songs, “Variations on an Irish Tune” and “Russian Sailor’s Dance.” 

Justin Newberger, the ensemble’s director, said he does not require the students to audition. Instead, Newberger, who started working with the ensemble last year, requires that they have an outside music teacher.

Playing in the ensemble allows students without significant experience to play in an orchestra, and Newberger said he does challenge them.

“It’s just kind of listening to the orchestra, getting to know your musicians, what they can handle, and pushing them just enough so they don’t ever feel like they’re [not] capable of meeting the challenge of the performance,” he said.

The Intermediate Ensemble, which Newberger also directs, played “Slavonic Dance No. 8,” and two selections from the “English Folk Song Suite” by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Smoothly transitioning from slow to staccato, the students harmonized their instruments. 

Students must audition for the Intermediate Ensemble, which plays more advanced music.

Esme Newman, a ninth-grade violinist from Bethesda, said she likes the environment the orchestra creates.

“I really liked doing orchestras, and the main two … around here, PVYO, [Potomac Valley Youth Orchestra] and MCYO [Montgomery County Youth Orchestra] … they’re both super competitive, and I didn’t like that very much, so yeah, I’m here,” Esme said.

The College Park Youth Orchestra’s Chamber Ensemble played “American” before joining  the adult College Park Choir and Chorale for performances of songs by Mozart and Brahms.

The Chamber Ensemble, which Claudia Chudacoff directs, is the most advanced ensemble in the orchestra. Chudacoff said the kids she directs are passionate about music. 

“We have a really fun time,” she said.

Closing out the evening, the adult choir and chorale sang “Wondrous Love,” and ending on a more folksy note, sang “Wesley,” a hymn also known as “Come, Children of Zion.”