Celebrating Music at the Upper School

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Ridgway Auditorium has seen a whole lot of talent cross its stage over time. But the night of April 18 was surely a record in terms of the sheer volume of musical talent to grace the stage in just one evening!

The Upper School Jazz Band was joined by over a dozen alumni and friends of Principia, as well as the locally renowned Gary Dammer Big Band, to celebrate 40 years of excellence in the Principia School band program—and to honor former Band Director Jerry Barnes. Serving as band leader from 1974–1995, Barnes initiated the Metro District 8 music organization, of which Principia is still a part, and taught and mentored hundreds of student musicians.

The celebration—organized by Barnes’s successor, current Band Director Martha Stitzel, and Assistant Band Director Mike Griswold (US’80)—launched the Jerry Barnes Band Fund, an endowed fund that supports current band students’ development through attendance at band camps, music clinics, private lessons, concerts, and more.

In the words of former headmaster Bill Truitt (C’57), Barnes “had just what it took to inspire, promote, and demand excellence from his students.” Many of those students spent the day of the concert on campus for what was billed as the “Jerry Barnes Band Party.” Events included an alumni and student Pep Band performance, a luncheon with slideshow and spontaneous sharing, the evening concert to benefit the Jerry Barnes Music Fund, an ice-cream social, and a jam session that lasted well into the night.

The evening performance started with several jazz and swing favorites, some of which were performed by the Jazz Band at its recent Arts on Tour performances in Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon. They were joined on stage by singers Lily Oyer (US’16) and Airman 1st Class Stephanie Allen (US’10), who is with the U.S. Air Force Band, as well as by alums Derek Grier (US’99, C’03) and Mark Huth (US’86) on saxophone. In addition, current percussion instructor Keith Evans played and conducted a few pieces.

A combo session later in the concert featured even more alums and friends of Principia— Upper School Choir Director Holly Barber (C’05), Katie Ward Beim-Esche (US’06, C’10), Paul Hermanson (US’06), Nancy Moon, Stephanie Trick (US’05) and her husband Paolo Alderighi; Brian Ward (US’09); and former Assistant Band Director Jon Ward. Highlights sprinkled throughout the evening included Jerry’s daughter, Devon (US’96), singing with a combo and with Gary Dammer’s Big Band.

Several alumni unable to attend were there in spirit and sent heartfelt greetings. “I think back to some of my most valued experiences in school,” e-mailed Dr. Sean Hanser (US’86, C’90), a marine resources specialist at the U.S. Navy facilities in Hawaii, “and I find that most of them involved making music with Jerry in some way—going to competitions and playing at basketball games and in pit orchestra for productions and brass ensembles at Christmas. The sense of accomplishment as a team was highly rewarding—more so for me than [in] sports.”

Brian Andres (’87), a successful Bay Area musician with the Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel who launched his career just one year after graduating from Upper School, wrote, “This could not and would not have happened had I not had JB in my corner as a student. He was the best part of my Principia experience, and I love him dearly for it.”

(The Jerry Barnes Band Fund is still open for contributions.)