Tracking the Expansion of the MEANYC All County Bands

Ten years ago, I recall receiving an e-mail that MEANYC was organizing an All County music festival! I saw this as another wonderful performance opportunity for my students and could not wait to involve them. I nominated 26 students for the band and waited with bated breath, hoping that four or five would be accepted! Much to my surprise all 26 of my students were accepted.

The first ever MEANYC All County Concert Band was small, but mighty. There were just over 50 students hailing from four schools, two in Manhattan and two from Queens. The students converged on Long Island City High School on a Friday afternoon. They entered the building as individuals, but as soon as they lifted their instruments to play their first note, the spirit of community began to emerge.

Under the leadership of Mr. Dave LaMorte, the raucous, uncontrolled first warm-ups gradually melded into rich harmonies. Over the two days the students of the first MEANYC All County Band worked together and made music as a cohesive ensemble and their music resonated joyfully throughout the vast auditorium.

Over the past decade, the growth in the MEANYC All County Band has been exponential. In 2015, we added a jazz ensemble, which was an enormous success, under the fine tutelage of Mr. Tom Zlabinger. With each passing year, the number of participating schools, both the Jazz Ensemble and Concert Band, have steadily increased.

2019 marked the 10th MEANYC All County Music Festival. We invited back our inaugural concert band and jazz ensemble conductors. This year was different from our humble start ten years ago. Instead of four schools participating in the bands, we had 23. The 50-ish nominations submitted back in 2010 reached 300 for this year’s Festival. The spirit of community through the art of music making is stronger than ever. As we gaze into the future, I am excited to see how this Festival will continue to evolve and serve the young musicians of New York City. The MEANYC Festival was the vision of Maria Schwab, who has chaired her 10th and final Festival. I cannot thank Maria enough for her vision, passion, efforts and determination and look forward to supporting whomever takes on her gargantuan role!

Jennifer Schecter is in her 15th year of teaching at Curie Middle School 158 in Queens where here band program servers 300 students each year. She also conducts the Queens Borough Wide Band, has served as the chairperson of the MEANYC All County Concert Band since 2015 and teaches music education courses at CUNY Hunter and Queens Colleges. When not teaching, Ms. Schecter plays French horn in the Brooklyn Wind Symphony, is an active black belt in her Taekwondo school and is a mom to a vibrant and energetic 5-year old named Mikayla.