Saipan Southern High School Manta Ray Band brought new pride to the Commonwealth after it a bagged silver award in the London Celebration Music Festival held last Friday in the actual 2012 Summer Olympics site.
The band's musical director and conductor Will DeWitt confirmed the good news in a statement yesterday direct from London. The London Celebration Music Festival is directly part of the Olympic Games.
The Manta Ray Band was among a few handpicked bands across the U.S. to perform at the summer Olympics. Besides this historic performance, the young local musical talents from CNMI were also invited to perform at Westminster Abbey, Queen Elizabeth's Conference Center, and a torch ceremony in Central London. A 30-minute bonus show is also scheduled at the Olympic Park during this trip.
DeWitt revealed that the festival's organizing committee-World Projects, LLC-has been tasked at the London Olympic Games by the Olympic Organizing Committee to provide musical entertainment at various Olympic events and sites.
World Projects sponsored an adjudicated performance by the five invited ensembles in connection with the Olympics again, as they did in Beijing (2008) and Sydney (2000).
Saipan Tribune learned that there were five groups that competed in this music festival where 47-member Manta Ray Band emerged the second best group. The event was held last July 27 at Central Hall Westminster (Westminster Abbey) from 2pm to 5pm.
DeWitt said the silver award was quite an honor for the Manta Ray Band to receive.
“Although they had hoped for the gold award, the band members knew that they had played at their absolute peak level during the 20 minutes they were given to perform,” stated DeWitt, adding that there were three judges in the music festival who include Dr. Felix Hauswirth, Dr. Larry Sutherland, and Dr. Keith Allen. They commented enthusiastically about the Manta Ray Band's performance, according to the musical director.
According to DeWitt, one judge described the Manta Band as the most highly regarded concert band on the judges' score sheets. The CNMI group was bested by a group of Chinese traditional musicians (not a concert band) from Beijing that included professional instrumentalists, dancers, and music educators.
With the understanding that no performance is ever 100 percent perfect, DeWitt said nonetheless the feeling of the band was one that included great satisfaction with the overall quality of the performance.
“The students knew that they had played well when their final piece, We Are The World received an extended ovation requiring two curtain calls from their conductor. Performing in such an amazing venue seemed surreal at times, and also a bit intimidating,” said DeWitt.
He added that during the sound check on stage before the event, students had to control their emotions, nerves, and sense of amazement at playing in such a historically important venue. By the time their performance was due, they had calmed their anxiety and performed with a level of confidence and passion that inspired not only the audience, but the other ensembles as well, who enthusiastically cheered the Manta Ray Band and encouraged the students to believe that they might be the ones to receive the coveted gold award.
DeWitt also shared that in the adjudicated areas of intonation, expression, phrasing, dynamic contrast, selection of repertoire, posture and appearance, intonation, balance, and unity the Manta Ray Band received very solid marks.
“We are proud to be representing the CNMI, the Public School System, Saipan Southern High School, and our Manta Ray Band program. We wish to thank everyone back home for the opportunity to show the world what a treasure our young musicians are!” added DeWitt.
The Manta Ray Band has performed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and had a remarkable performance two years ago in New York's Carnegie Hall where it also bagged a silver medal. It also swept major awards and hailed overall champion in the Guam Tumon Bay Music Festival for two years.