Wind ensembles dazzle at Sonoma Invitational Music Festival

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  • Wind Ensemble I stands after the end of their performance. “We had a very respectable performance… I thought both groups peaked. It was really exciting for both the staff and the students,” said Edwin Cordoba, assistant director of bands.

“I want your job.” 

That was what Glen Adskin, guest clinician and adjudicator of the Sonoma State Invitational in Rohnert Park, said to Amador band director Jonathan Grantham after witnessing the stellar performance of Amador’s Wind Ensemble I and II last night. 

To the student musicians themselves: “WOW. Just, speechless.”  

Needless to say, the wind ensemble students of Amador, led by Grantham and assistant director Edwin Cordoba, dazzled at Sonoma State University during the university’s annual music festival, which lasted from March 9 to 11. 

Non-competitive, free of charge and open to the public, the invitational offers an opportunity for high school ensembles and symphonies to perform rehearsed pieces before one another and receive detailed feedback from judges and clinicians. 

Both Amador groups performed yesterday. And, according to Cordoba, “both groups peaked.”  

Since December, months prior to the festival, the wind ensemble students had already buckled down to prepare the three pieces selected for their respective Sonoma performances. 

Wind I and Wind II are audition-only musician groups, and widely regarded as bands of high caliber. But, alongside this excellent musicianship, they also value community, passion, and dedication. With all values combined, both bands were, as alto saxophone player Nathan Hu (‘23) put it, “ready to blow [the Sonoma audience’s] socks off.” 

Amador student musicians head into Weill Hall at Sonoma State University before their performance. “We’re ready to blow their socks off,” said Hu. (Carol Xu)

Wind II opened the afternoon performance with “Dance of the Jesters,” “Vesuvius,” and “Unquiet Hours,” and Wind I capped off the evening with “An Epic Fanfare,” “Traveler,” and “Vanity Fair.” 

It seemed fitting that Amador’s bands, after the hours of rehearsals in and out of class, featured as both the opening and closing act, sandwiching the other school ensembles’ performances.

Other groups present consisted of James Logan High School’s symphonic band and wind symphony, Livermore High School’s chamber orchestra, and Marin School of the Arts’ symphonic band. 

“James Logan put up a very good performance, but I think our Wind I was overall better. Our solos were very good, especially in our second song, ‘Traveler,’ and our songs were more musically pleasing to listen to as well,” said Hu. “You could really, like, feel the music.”

Following the event, Amador students had fun hanging out with friends and eating out at Chipotle, Little Caesars, and Subway, among other eateries. For flutist Kathryn Go (‘24), whose Sonoma performance marked her first band trip with friends since the pandemic hit in 2019, the experience brought a satisfying sense of deja vu. 

“It was amazing,” said Go. “Although our playing wasn’t perfect, I’m proud of what we have come to accomplish since the start of the year and I extremely value each of our performances as we grow from them.” 

Students and staff alike enjoyed performing at the invitational, and felt it was a worthwhile performance as a display of the culmination of their work over the year. 

“The fact that it isn’t competitive actually makes it more meaningful,” said Cordoba. “It’s band for the sake of band, music for the sake of music, relationships for the sake of relationships.”

Jason Caslor, guest clinician and director of bands at Arizona State University, holds 30-minute clinic with Wind II to impart advice on their performed pieces. (Kevin Zhu)

When the last note of Wind I’s “Vanity Fair,” trembled in mid-air, there lasted a split-second of silent appreciation. Then, came the applause, from the other musicians in front, the announcer from the side, the judges from their desks. 

And, at the top balcony, clapping giddy with excitement, stood Andy Collinsworth, Director of Bands at Sonoma State University, who had previously guest-conducted both Amador wind ensembles a few weeks ago. 

To the full Amador contingent, he grinned and kissed his fingers. “Mwah. Chef’s kiss.”

Socks blown off, indeed.