Music department and colorguard tour Spain


Michelle Lum, Editor in Chief

Music rings out in a hall of stained glass and large paintings, an almost heavenly atmosphere. This is a venue like no other: it is the concert hall of the University of Barcelona. Performing on the international stage for the first time since 2013, students in the Lynbrook music program visited Spain over spring break. From April 14 to 22, the band and symphony orchestra toured the cities of Barcelona, Valencia and Zaragoza alongside students from Monta Vista High School. Members of the Lynbrook colorguard team also accompanied the band and orchestra on the trip, taking a dance workshop, although they did not perform. In total, 160 students represented America in Spain as national ambassadors of music and dance.

The highlight of the trip were the concerts, held at well-known venues in three of Spain’s largest cities. Students first performed at the University of Barcelona, then departed for the city of Valencia, where they performed at the Valencia Conservatory with the Banda Sinfonica del Conservatorio. The final leg of the trip was Zaragoza, where students performed with a local ensemble at the Auditorium of Zaragoza. Pieces played included Symphony No. 3 from Don Quixote, The Redwoods and The Stars and Stripes Forever.

Mr. Michael Pakaluk, Lynbrook’s instrumental music director, decided to organize the trip to Spain as a nod to the tour in Spain that Lynbrook took in 2005, as well as in accordance with tours taken by other local schools like Saratoga High School. The Lynbrook music department decided to combine groups with Monta Vista, which contributed many needed string players to the tour.

“A lot of our performances at Lynbrook are pretty formal,” said Pakaluk. “With the Spain tour, it’s a lot more about enjoyment of performing and sharing our music with another culture and trying to transcend the boundaries of distance and language and communicate with music. Spanish audiences are also really receptive, more so than they are here. In Spain, they’re very enthusiastic with supporting concerts and music groups.”

Besides performing, students also learned from Spanish conductors and teachers, discovering new styles and skills. While in Barcelona, students participated in a workshop led by musician José R. Pascual Vilaplana, who has studied at the Conservatory of Alcoy and the Conservatory of Valencia and conducted around Spain. In Zaragoza, students participated in a residency at the Conservatorio Superior, a conservatory for music students, and met some of the current students there.

However, as with any other trip, there were unforeseen challenges. One of the three flights carrying students to Spain was canceled due to an old plane, resulting in a group of more than 80 students joining the tour late. This meant that the students on the canceled flight missed the tour of Barcelona and the workshop with Vilapana, and a planned concert at the Conservatori Superior de Musica de Liceu of Barcelona with the Symphony Orchestra of the Vozes was canceled. However, students on the canceled flight were given the opportunity to explore Amsterdam on the way to Spain on a new flight.

Despite such challenges, the tour went on with considerable success due to the preparation that went into it. Students practiced intensively the weeks before departure, participating in long rehearsals, including one that took around seven hours. On April 12, just before students left, a farewell concert was held in the Lynbrook auditorium, where they performed the pieces that would be played in Spain in front of parents and friends.

Senior Davin Tjong, who plays the euphonium, was chosen to play a solo for the piece Morceau Symphonique alongside the orchestra after winning a concerto competition in December of last year. He was the only student who performed a solo during the tour.

“The biggest challenge [of preparing for the tour] was working with new people,”  said Tjong. “The groups that went to Spain are not the same groups that you play with normally. You’re playing with people from Monta Vista and other bands, and you don’t know how it all works out together. It’s also twice as big a group, so it’s different. I was honestly more nervous about practicing than performing because when I practice with the orchestra, it’s all people I know, but when we go on tour, we’re playing for a bunch of people we never see again.”

Music, however, was not the only part of the trip. In their free time, students went sightseeing on guided tours of the three cities and explored the popular City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia. While performing and learning, Lynbrook students also made new friends, such as students of the Conservatory in Zaragoza. The colorguard team participated in a flamenco dance workshop  in Valencia.

“To be honest, I didn’t really like Spanish food, but I started to eat more as the week went by,” said junior and percussionist Jennifer Yang. “When we were in Barcelona, we visited a street called La Rambla. It’s a really famous street, and there’s a famous market on it called La Boqueria. I got to try a lot of new foods when we went to the market.”

Hours of work, planning and effort resulted in a culminating tour of Spain that was an overall success. During the trip, students performed in notable concert halls, learned from the best and explored a new culture. It was, undeniably, an experience of a lifetime.