The Waubonsie Valley wind ensemble is one of 20 school groups from around the country that gets the chance to work with Indian-American composer Reena Esmail.
In an effort to connect with the South Asian community, the schools asked Esmail to write a band piece based on Hindustani music.
“This piece is called “Chamak”. And there are a lot of synonyms for what it means. But Rena is focusing in on the word spark. And this is special because we hope this is a spark in two different ways. She is really interested in helping the kids learn to find their spark as they’re leaving high school and really ignite something in their life, but also, we’re hoping to ignite just a different culture in a concert band music,” said Mark Duker, a band teacher at Waubonsie.
What makes the song unique is that it’s the first band piece based solely on Hindustani music. Duker said this was a chance the school couldn’t pass up.
“We play music from a lot of different cultures and just didn’t have anything from a South Asian culture. So, it’s very important to be able to provide that for them. It’s really rewarding to be able to give something to that particular segment of students that feels familiar to them and feels like they are being seen in our program,” said Duker.
A special connection
About a third of the students in the ensemble are of South Asian descent, giving this piece special meaning to them.
“So, I’ve been always surrounded by Indian music, specifically Hindi and Carnatic music. My mother was a dancer, and she was also a singer when she was a child. And you know, coming back home as a kid and listening to this type of music has been like the norm for me. So, having a piece that kind of connects to you personally has been a very great and significant thing to do in band,” said Saishreyas Peddainti, a junior at Waubonsie.
“I’m really excited for my parents to be able to hear this piece because I’m the first one in my family to go to high school in America and to be in band here. So, I know that they’ll be really happy to hear me play a piece for my culture like in this setting,” said Farah Rahman, a senior at Waubonsie.
Less than a month away
The wind ensemble will perform “Chamak” on March 15 at 7:30 p.m. at North Central College’s Wentz Concert Hall. No tickets are required for the event, which is free.
As the concert date draws near, Duker says he can’t wait to show the audience what they’ve been working on.
“We’re less than a month away from sharing it with what we hope is a really great crowd at Wentz Hall, it’s just kind of the culmination of three years of ideas and planning and three and a half, I guess, really. And it’s just going to be amazing to see that finally happen,” said Duker.
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