Behind the Scenes of the Bronx Science Music Department

On December 20th and 21st, 2022, the Bronx Science choir, bands, and orchestra played wonderfully for the 2023 Winter Concert.


Louisiana Stahl

Joseph Park ’24 (outermost chair) is one of two trumpeters in Jazz Band.

The doors swing wide open as students and parents pour into the auditorium. The lights dim as bright spotlights move towards the stage. The risers are set up in front of the stage, ready to elevate the choir group as they hit the high notes. Chairs are lined in rows, empty until the bands take to the stage. 

On Tuesday, December 20th and Wednesday, December 21st, 2022, the Bronx Science Music Department held their annual Winter Concert to culminate the calendar year. Chorus, Jazz Band, Orchestra, and Concert Band each delivered beautiful performances. 

As the first Winter Concert post-pandemic at Bronx Science, there was a record-breaking number of attendants, and based on their reactions, the ensembles’ hard work over the past three months have certainly paid off. 


The audience simmers down as the choir, clad in formal, black attire, walks their way down to the stage; they are thrilled to be the first ensemble performing.

The choir begins by singing the medley of “Five Madrigals” by Stephen Foster. Their piano accompaniments – Darren Chen ’26 and Jaime Yu ’25 – play the melody in the background as the choir takes center stage. Standing on the risers, the choir sings their hearts out. Controlling their voices as they harmonized beautifully. 

“My favorite part [about chorus] is the concerts, because everything you’ve been working on comes together really nicely and it feels like it’s all paid off,” said chorus member Tallulah Sarig ’24, “I think it brings together the school community as a whole, because so many non-music-oriented people come to it.”

For many members of the chorus, chorus is a safe haven away from the intensity of Bronx Science. “I love the group, and being able to do something so relaxing in school, it’s a nice contrast from the rest of the day,” said Zachary Meryn ’25. 

Coming back from two years of quarantine and COVID-19 restrictions, the choir was able to truly shine in front of the crowd. For the choir, singing in-person with the rest of their ensemble is a remarkable experience after months of quarantine and Zoom meetings. 

Like many of the other ensembles, the chorists form close friendships with each other while making music together. “Because chorus allows students from all grades to be in one class, you see interactions that you don’t really get anywhere else” said Elisa Chang ’24, “Personally, I love the iconic freshie-senior duo that formed in the bass section – they’re absolutely hilarious!”

Meanwhile, on the third floor, there is quite a racket in the hallway outside of the music room. Three instrumental ensembles are preparing for their performance, a boisterous process that includes: warming up, tuning their instruments, practicing their pieces, and chatting with their fellow band members.

Dozens of high school performers are dressed up in suits or dresses, scattered throughout the school awaiting their performance. Each musician is in their own corner amidst the loud, varied instruments playing in the background. Flute player Kelly Eng ’24 warms up in the middle of a Biology classroom, in an effort to escape the crowd of musicians in the hallway of the music department. In the corner of that same room, bassoons, trumpets, and saxophones are played simultaneously. Not too far away, there is yet another small group of violinists preparing for their performance. The classroom and hallway buzzes with activity, the sound of various instruments, and chatter. 

Jazz Band

Shortly after the choir’s performance, Jazz Band took the stage and stunned the crowd with jazz classics such as “Yardbird Suite” to crowd favorites such as “Jingle Bell Rock.” 

With only sixteen members, Jazz Band has significantly fewer players than the other instrumental ensembles. This played in their favor, as they were incredibly in-sync. It felt as if the audience were transported back to New Orleans through “Água De Beber” by Antonio Carlos Jobim; the song’s catchy rhythm had the audience swaying in their seats. 

Sticking to the winter theme, the band moved on to the familiar tunes of  “Jingle Bell Rock,” the band at one point even set down their instruments and began singing the chorus out loud, making for a truly show-stopping performance. Jazz Band’s performances had great depth to them, with a variety of different instruments each adding their own richness to the mix. 

The Jazz Band ended their spectacular performance with Ralph Ford’s “Dance Big’un, Dance.” The song featured dramatic staccato notes, giving their performance a robust ending.  


The orchestra steps on stage next, playing a few warmup notes before beginning their first song with a dynamic introduction, immediately grabbing the audience’s attention. The melody is mesmerizing and played in unison for a few measures, growing louder and more vibrant. 

The orchestra also played “Sleigh Ride,” a wholesome tune refashioned into a smooth, sweet version of the Christmas classic. The song even ended with a trumpet blast that caught the audience by surprise, ending the song on a humorous note – several laughs erupted from the audience. 

During their rendition of songs from the “Fiddler on the Roof” soundtrack by Jerry Bock, Chrissy Jung ’24 played a poignant violin solo. She played with sharp, exquisite movements as the auditorium was filled with the sound of her violin. Jung is just one of the 32 violinists in orchestra, a particularly large section that formidably dominates the left-hand side of the stage. It was mesmerizing to watch the violinists play together, with their arms angled and moving at the same time. 

To put it simply, the orchestra had impeccable cohesion; whether it was a whimsical tune such as “Irish Suite” (Arr. Leroy Anderson) or dramatic pieces like the “Fiddler on the Roof” medley, Orchestra put on a terrific, rich performance.

Guest Orchestra Players

Each of the ensembles rehearse every day during their designated period. Orchestra rehearses during fourth period, which just so happens to be the lunch period of several Concert Band players. It wasn’t long before Concert Band player Peter Neggie ’24 and eventually Jayden Lee ’24 took the opportunity to practice with Orchestra during their lunch period. 

Soon enough, First-Chair clarinet player and Concertmaster of Concert Band Emily Hsieh ’24 started coming to see what it was all about. Mr. DeSilva welcomed them all with open arms. 

Neggie and Lee played as guest Orchestra performers during the Winter Concert while also performing in their respective Concert Band ensemble. 

Concert Band

Promptly after Orchestra’s performance, Concert Band filed on stage and moved the chairs into their proper positions befitting the band. The audience was excited to hear the band play, with some audience members cheering on their friends while the band set up. 

They began their performance with “Above and Beyond” by James Swearingen before moving onto “Folk Dances” by Dmitri Shostakovich, a song known for its tricky melody that keeps musicians and listeners alike on their toes. After a gentle clarinet solo, the song notably climaxes as the rest of the band joins together for an eruptive reunion; the drums, especially, had a booming presence. It is a favorite amongst certain Concert Band players. 

When asked about their favorite song to play, Sam Chin ’24 said, “Folk Dances! Hands down. The tempo is tricky and the piece seems to take a lot of energy out of you, but the adrenaline rush and focus you can achieve during the piece is unbelievable.”

The Concert Band is known for performing popular music from T.V. shows, movies, etc. For this year’s Winter Concert, they played a medley of songs from Aladdin, which turned out to be a hit with the crowd. 

From thrilling new songs like “Folk Dances” to familiar tunes such as “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” Concert Band entertained the crowd and ended the show on a high note. 

The band is an extremely tight knit community and shares many wholesome memories together. The band’s unity is even evident in their performances. “I remember someone, maybe Emily, calling us a found family, and I would agree. There’s something about band that extends far beyond a shared class period to create a space where we can laugh with one another, but also share a passion for making music,” said Chin.

Playing In Style

In November 2022, Concert Band kicked off the new school year by ordering matching hoodies for its members. This is Concert Band’s second year ordering matching hoodies together. Designed by clarinet player Karin Mitsuta ’24, the green hoodie features Mitsuta’s design on the back with the words “Unhinged Concert Band” and each player’s name or nickname written (see the gallery for photos).

Though a small gesture, the hoodies highlight the band’s strong sense of community and personality. 

“It was so much fun seeing everyone try them on and match with each other. It instilled a sense of excitement and community that I will never forget,” said flutist Ella Stanley ’24.

Meet the Concertmasters 

In an orchestra, the Concertmaster is the First-chair violinist (the most skilled violinist) who sits in the outermost chair of the front row. The Concertmaster of Concert Band is the First-Chair clarinet player who also sits in the most prominent seat. Outside of their incredible musical gifts, Concertmasters also have the responsibility of leading their ensemble and ensuring cohesion throughout all of the instrument sections. 

This year, the Concertmasters are Chrissy Jung ’24 and Emily Hsieh ’24 for Orchestra and Concert Band respectively. Both girls have an extensive musical background prior to Bronx Science, which ultimately led them to join their respective ensembles in school as well. 

Pictured are Chrissy Jung ’24 (at left) and Emily Hsieh ’24 (at right), concertmasters of Orchestra and Concert Band respectively. Jung and Hsieh work hard for their ensembles. (Louisiana Stahl )

“Initially, I chose to take this class because the school orchestra is something I have been a part of since third grade,” said Jung. Outside of school, Jung is also a member of the New York Youth Symphony – a prestigious orchestra for young musicians in the metropolitan area. The NYYS recently won a Grammy award for their album in February 2023, which Jung contributed to as a violinist. 

Hsieh also has extensive musical experience. She played the clarinet all throughout middle school. Upon coming to Bronx Science, she joined Intermediate Band during her ninth grade year before eventually joining Concert Band as a sophomore last year. Since then, she has been incredibly committed to honing her skills. 

“I chose to take these classes (even if it meant giving up my lunch period and a good chunk of my sleep) because I had really fond memories of my previous years in middle school band and, later, continued to take it because I had just grown so attached to my community and Mr. Mantilla,” said Hsieh. 

Hsieh dedicates a great deal of time into Concert Band and can often be found practicing in Mr. Mantilla’s Small Group Instruction. Her dedication extends online to the Concert Band Instagram page (@bxsciconcertband), where she goes above and beyond posting on behalf of Concert Band.

Hsieh’s posts give students a closer look behind-the-scenes of Concert Band: from baby photos of ensemble members to “Student of the Week” interviews, with plenty of humor sprinkled throughout. The Concert Band Instagram account has attracted attention from many students thanks to Hsieh’s diligent efforts. Through her posts, Hsieh has helped to increase awareness about the Bronx Science Music Department and their work, generating great excitement around the ensembles. Orchestra, Jazz Band, and Chorus each have their own Instagram pages as well (@orchestrabxsci; @bxscijazzband; @bxscichorus).

Not only do Jung and Hsieh lead their ensemble through rehearsals and performances, but they also play a unique role as student-leaders. When Mr. DeSilva or Mr. Mantilla is absent, the Concertmasters step up to lead the ensembles through rehearsals. But more than their musical gifts or even their excellent performances, the ensembles have grown into a community filled with encouragement and friendship found over a shared bridge of making music.

“When I first started Concert Band … I was so nervous because I didn’t know anyone, but Emily walked up to me and set my nerves at ease. She was very kind and helped me learn my way through the first days of Concert Band,” said Sheila Ramirez ’26.

Both dedicated musicians and students, Jung and Hsieh are exemplar pictures of the heart of their ensembles.  

“I love orchestra because it is a community in which we all share a common value. The value in connecting and uniting to create music. Each player is so important in creating the necessary sound of an orchestra, so I love how each member is valued,” said Jung.

Often, it’s the little moments that the musicians look forward to each day during practice.

“When the trumpet section isn’t playing, we’ll often turn to one another and have little conversations with just gestures or facial expressions. It’s the memories of [fellow trumpet players] Kina and Raquel pivoting in their chairs that I can picture clearest, and it’s a wonderful thing to look forward to,” said Chin. 

From spontaneous Uno games before the evening concert to joking around during practices, each of the ensembles have grown to make extraordinary connections with their classmates. 

“As my sister always reminds me, ‘Once a band kid, forever a band kid,’” said Ramirez.

I remember someone, maybe Emily, calling us a found family, and I would agree. There’s something about band that extends far beyond a shared class period to create a space where we can laugh with one another, but also share a passion for making music,” said Sam Chin ’24.