Inside the practice room with the SAC Concert Band

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Concert Band Director, Adam Gerling led the ensemble during a Wednesday night practice. / Photo by Emily Hernandez

The metronome is set. click. click. click. 

The tuba makes a bombastic entrance from the back of the room, and the clarinets playfully follow, like Little Red Riding Hood skipping merrily through the woods. 

It’s a quiet evening as another night of practice begins, Adjunct Music Instructor Adam Gerling holds the magic wand as director of Santa Ana College’s Concert Band. 

The ensemble of music majors is gearing up to perform “Myths, Legends, and Fantasy.” They will be playing a composite of fantastical songs like Pegasus, which is about the legend of a mythological flying horse, and songs from Into the Woods which was inspired by the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. Other songs include The Washington Post, written by famous conductor John Philip Sousa who composed this marching song for the US Marine Band in the 1880s, making way for the golden age of Band. 

The small room flooded with amber lighting and lit up even more when the music began to play. Everyone appeared to be old friends from the way they chuckled, asked each other for feedback, and looked over at one another with pride when they felt satisfied with the way something sounded. 

Before going into lockdown and classes were held remotely, the ensemble could be as large as thirty players, but this semester the group size is just under ten. 

One of those players is  Evan Rathe, who first picked up a clarinet when she was five years old and fell in love with music. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from Cal State Long Beach and a teaching credential. Currently, she teaches instrumental and general music to middle school and elementary students at Lydia-Romero Cruz Academy in Santa Ana. 

“I’ve been in this ensemble for a year now. I joined in the fall of 2021 just to keep playing clarinet for fun and connect with the community,” said Rathe. “That’s it for me, I have my degree, I have my job. I just want to play at this point, and play with other people and hear people’s stories.”

Adam Gerling, who for the first time is directing the Concert Band ensemble, is devoted to the group and its success. He records each practice and takes note of where there is room for improvement. He creates an environment for anyone to ask for feedback and clarification without the fear of being judged. He is so devoted to music, that he is also a current member of Santa Ana College’s Don Mariachi. 

“If I bring the energy for you guys, I know you will follow. I promise to keep the energy going,” said Gerling during the practice. 

Gerling described the way a song should sound as lush, granger-esque, and like a flowing stream of water gradually getting faster, to create a picture in the mind of the students. While the band played, the instruments sounded like they were having lively conversations with one another. 

One player said, “This is my therapy. It’s like the fun thing I do, plus a lot of us have been doing this for so long, it’s like you’re with a group of friends, plus you get to meet so many people from the community, and it’s unrelated to what I do for a living.” 

Student saxophone player gets lost in the music while practicing for the concert band’s upcoming performance. / Photo by Emily Hernandez

The concert band will perform “Myths, Legends, and Fantasy!” in the Phillips Hall Theatre on Sunday, May 22 from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Tickets are on sale on SAC’s Fine and Performing Arts Events website.

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