With Winter Comes Wisdom: We Can All Learn Lessons From the Winter Concert

The Bronx Science music program has managed to not only survive but to thrive after a year of remote learning.


Camila Kulahlioglu

Mr. DeSilva, the Bronx Science Orchestra and Chorus Director, leads the orchestra with grace and precision, as they perform ‘English Folk Songs’ by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

The Bronx Science music rooms are among the largest in the school, which makes sense considering the large number of students they draw. Those who take music classes at Bronx Science all have different experiences with the subject — some have been taking music lessons since the age of four, while others only began learning an instrument four months ago.

Bronx Science’s music classes may not be the main attraction at Bronx Science for some prospective students, but they have enriched their experience and taught them lessons on collaboration and harmony, often unattainable in a math lecture or during chemistry lab. Even students who possess a seasoned knowledge of music before entering Bronx Science widen their focus to include new genres and instruments. “I’ve loved music since I was tiny. I learned the violin at six. Then, I stopped and started playing guitar at nine and still play guitar. Jazz Band has expanded my taste in music and my awareness of the Jazz genre,” said Cecilia Beauchamp ’25, a bass player for the Bronx Science Jazz Band.

In music classes, students are exposed to a wide range of compositions, from ‘Yesterday’ by the Beatles to ‘Speechless’ from the Aladdin musical. Both Mr. Mantilla (teacher of Intermediate Band, Concert Band, and Jazz Ensemble) and Mr. DeSilva (teacher of Chorus and Orchestra) place an emphasis on encouraging students to perform outside of their comfort zone. “Music class has helped provide an environment where I can feel comfortable musically and creatively,” said Bix Weissberg ’22, the trombone player for the Orchestra.

Mr. Mantilla, the Beginner Ensemble, Intermediate Band, Jazz Band, and Concert Band Director, began his journey at Bronx Science as a student-teacher while studying at NYU. (Ruby Moran)

Not only are students directly learning underrated skills on how to reading music and improvise, but they are also being taught indispensable lessons that can be applied to everyday life. “We need more activities that bring people together in a non-competitive way. Through music, we learn how to function in a society where we all have different but equally important roles,” said Mr. Mantilla.

Remote learning during the 2020-2021 academic year, due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, threatened to diminish the nurturing environment that the music program instilled, as the interactions between students and teachers were relegated to Zoom meetings. However, as classes are entirely in-person during the current 2021-2022 academic year, the feeling of connectedness was revived as students prepared for the winter concert on Tuesday December 21st and Wednesday, December 22nd, 2021. The absence of the distinctive Bronx Science winter and spring concerts last year was a disheartening reminder of how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic truly disrupted school spirit by dismantling important traditions. 

The December 2021 winter concert served to warmly usher the entire Bronx Science community — faculty, students, and families — into the new year. 

Mr. DeSilva and Mr. Mantilla began to prepare students for the concert within the first few days of school, starting in September 2021. “Each concert requires several months of preparation. Students rehearse in class on a daily basis and supplement by practicing at home,” said Mr. DeSilva.

In spite of COVID-19 regulations, returning music students feel that not much has changed from pre-pandemic instruction. “Students are very diligent and cautious about social distancing and wearing masks during music class, but rather than inhibiting us from connecting with each other, it instead makes us feel more safe and comfortable playing music together,” said Mia Goldberg ’22, the guitar player for the Jazz Band. 

Remote learning has also helped students to develop a greater appreciation for their music classes. “Now, after losing the opportunity to play during the COVID-19 pandemic, I am much more appreciative for every day, in-person orchestra,” said Weissberg.

If it’s true that a student is only as great as their teacher, then it makes sense that Bronx Science musicians are as wonderful as they are. “Our two exceptional music teachers work tirelessly every day in their music classes and in their almost daily Small Group Instructions (SGI) sessions to prepare our talented students for their concert,” said Ms. Rocchio, the Assistant Principal of the Music Department.

The concert was not only a learning experience for the students who performed in it, but it also provided spectators with a message regarding determination and unity, which they can reflect on as they craft their new years’ resolutions.

“Singing with a mask is difficult. It makes it harder to project, to enunciate, and to breathe,” said Noami Liu ’22, a soprano in the Chorus. Despite the difficulties, the Chorus persisted and delivered a cheerful performance of the winter classic, ‘Carol of the Bells by Mykola Leontovich. The Chorus also performed modern songs such as ‘Viva la Vida’ by Coldplay, demonstrating their great range in repertoire. (Katherine Hankin)
The Jazz Band performed a rendition of ‘My Favorite Things,’ by Richard Rodgers as well as the classic jazz composition ‘Milestones,’ by Miles Davis. (Katherine Hankin)
“I think that working remotely was really difficult for the orchestra, so coming back to in-person school was a welcome change. It did have some challenges, but in the end, everything worked out,” said Michela Kornfeld ’22, a viola player in the Orchestra. (Katherine Hankin)
The Concert Band concluded the Winter Concert with a unique performance of ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ by John Powell. (Ryan Ahmed )