Blackhawk student takes the baton
Dec 18, 2011 (Beaver County Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
My world is changing. I'm rearranging."
-- Lyric from "Where Are You Christmas?"
CHIPPEWA TWP. -- Mariah Carey co-wrote the song, which has been performed by Cindi Lou Who and recorded by Faith Hill. However, when junior Amber Leitsch raised her hands and brought the Blackhawk High School concert band to life, it became, for a night, her song.
She changed it.
Leitsch took a vocal arrangement of the song and grew it into something that accommodated nearly 50 musicians, playing more than a dozen different instruments -- including sleigh bells and a drum kit -- at the Blackhawk Christmas concert earlier this week. She created more than 20 parts.
"It was a signature moment for our music academy," Principal Scott Nelson said.
"I thought it was very good," said band director Robert Barthen, who stepped aside to let Leitsch conduct. "Everything fit together. It was very well-constructed, and Amber was very poised."
"It was amazing," Leitsch said. "This is really what I want to do."
Leitsch wants to do music in some form -- she is a saxophone player, pianist and vocalist -- and the Blackhawk music academy, launched a year ago, is allowing her to explore many avenues. In addition to individual performance instruction, students study music theory, music technology, music history, keyboarding and musicianship. Students must audition to gain entry into the academy.
"You will find students here composing and arranging every day," Nelson said.
The Blackhawk music academy, through the Beaver Valley Intermediate Unit's Regional Choice Initiative, is open to any student in Beaver County, but no students from outside of Blackhawk have chosen to enroll, according to Barthen.
"But the lab is filled every day," Barthen said.
The music lab -- directed by Barthen, strings director Nathan Goodrich and choral director Maura Underwood -- consists of 10 computers featuring software designed for composing and arranging music. "I spent a lot of lunches in here," Leitsch said.
Leitsch, who takes three music classes daily in addition to her core classes, said "Where Are You Christmas" is her favorite holiday song, and she decided in November, after Thanksgiving, that she wanted to arrange it for the concert band. Her instructors encouraged her, and helped her tweak the project. Barthen conducted it through the early rehearsals and then stepped aside for Leitsch.
"Music is what I love, and I get to do it every day," she said.
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