Earlier this month, NDP’s esteemed musical director, Mr. Alex Dzbinski, travelled to the annual Heritage Music Adjudication in Nashville, Tennessee, accompanied by several of his well-trained and finely tuned student ensembles where they competed against other schools from around the country, including some very elite music academies. Despite the stiff competition, NDP basically swept the festival, earning first place rankings in its division for Concert Choir, Chamber Choir, String Orchestra, and band! Talk about an embarrassment of riches! In addition, they received awards for best overall band, best overall string orchestra, and best overall music program! And a good time was had by all.
This ain’t your mama’s music program when “the band” consisted of 3 or 4 reedy recorders and a couple of steel triangles. Far from it. These days, music at NDP is serious business. And a heck of a lot of fun. In fact, many of the girls at Notre Dame actually chose to attend NDP because of the depth of the music program and music courses offered. Some schools don’t offer music at all and none to the extent NDP does. But whether a student is interested in preparing for a career in music, wants to learn an instrument, or just wants to expand on the enjoyment of music, Notre Dame has something to offer including the aforementioned bands, choirs, and orchestras, as well as voice, jazz band, and more. NDP is a member of the National Music Honor Society and offers private lessons on all instruments as well as voice. In addition – and perhaps most importantly – NDP offers its students a wide array of opportunities to perform and compete.
“That’s an important part of our curriculum,” Alex explained. “We start them in Middle School and take them outside of the school to perform for the community and in various competitions. It makes them better musicians and better students.” Alex – whose title is Chairman of the Music Department and Director of Bands – has been teaching at NDP for 14 years. He is himself an accomplished musician who plays trumpet, guitar, bass guitar, and keyboard.
At NDP, the arts are just as important as academics and athletics and both the faculty and student body embrace and appreciate that concept.
“Music stimulates the ‘other side’ of the brain,” Alex explained. “When you are performing music, you are totally in touch with a whole other part of you, an inner self that needs full expression. But it also has very practical applications. There are principles you learn in music that can be applied in the classroom and throughout life. Like teamwork (in band, orchestra, and choir); like eye-hand coordination (in playing an instrument). Like hard work, practice, dedication, and passion. These are important disciplines and virtues no matter where you are or what you do in life.”
And there are other benefits as well.
“Band settles me down,” explained one NDP student.
“Music is in my blood,” said another. “It’s who I am.”
“It’s a way for me to express myself. It’s freeing. I have a real passion for music,” said another with great enthusiasm. “All music.”
“Music inspires me like nothing else does. It lifts my spirit and makes me whole. I can’t imagine a world without music,” said still another band member.
Perhaps two juniors summed it up best:
“Music is everything to me. That’s where I found my friends. And that’s where I’m allowed to be myself,” said first clarinetist, Natalie Pucillo.
Confirming those feelings, trumpeter Emma Hoey added, “Music is my deepest root. In terms of self-expression and finding my passion, it has always been there.”
It is clear that these students are, indeed, passionate about music. It’s no wonder they did so well in Nashville. When I asked some of the girls about the experience, at first they were modest and understated. More intent on talking about the great southern food and breakfast buffet at Shoney’s ( “The biscuits are the best,” swooned senior, Mary Tipton). They didn’t want to come off as blowing their own horn, so to speak. But with a little prodding, they finally opened up.
“Well, actually… we kinda swept the show,” said one.
” We were the highest scoring band in competition…”
“…Yeah! We outscored all the other schools!”
As if to say, “let’s face it”, Alex summed it up by stating:
“We blew everybody away.” He could barely contain his pride.
Not all the competition was gracious in their losing, either. One director from another school took one look at the NDP team and then muttered to Alex, “You know…you ought to have some boys in that band.” Alex just beamed in response. He knew that wouldn’t make them any better.
They were already the best!