On & Off Campus Blog

The musical and social rewards of playing in a school chamber group
The musical and social rewards of playing in a school chamber group
By Oliver Shapiro ‘21


During the academic year, I play in the Upper School Orchestra twice a week. I always look forwards to our rehearsals, a time to relax and simply play music without any sense of pressure. However, Orchestra is a large group. While I do get to know the people in my wind section, Orchestra feels like less of a cohesive group than my chamber music group which meets every Thursday.

My chamber group is a woodwind quintet, consisting of a French horn (me), a bassoon, a clarinet, an oboe, and a flute, coached by Mr. Reasoner, the Orchestra's director, on piano. However, the diversity of the instruments is not what makes the group fun; instead it is the range of ages. Except for freshmen, each year of high school is represented: senior Philip Satterthwaite on flute (the Orchestra's principal oboist); juniors Philip Liu, oboe, and Stanley Gao, clarinet; and even English teacher Mr. Leith, on bassoon.

The group is full of conversation. We rarely make it through rehearsal without chatting about something either music-related (ranging from the new set of CDs or records Mr. Reasoner recently bought to the gruesome death of a world-renowned musician) or totally off topic (I can especially recall a vigorous discussion the day after Halloween about the quality of this year's Parent Association's candy selection). I feel I get to know each member of the group—including our leader Mr. Reasoner—on a different level than I do in Orchestra, or anywhere else for that matter.

While the social aspect of this woodwind quintet is entertaining, my experience playing with the group is like nothing that I have done before. We have played all kinds of music, from a Mozart string quintet arranged for winds to "Salut d'Amour," a love song composed by Edward Elgar a century later. At our twice-yearly concerts, we showcase our music to parents, fellow students, and teachers.

While I love Orchestra, my chamber quintet is a place to relax, have fun conversation, and make beautiful music for its own sake.

Editor's Note: At last night's installation for Dr. Jen Price, the woodwind quintet performed an arrangement of Mozart's "Variations on 'Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman,'" K. 265, an arrangement of the composer's piano composition on a French folk tune best known as "Twinkle, twinkle, little star."