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Unwrapping the Wonder of Rampo’s Winter Band Concert

Mr. Slozen
The annual tradition of Rampo Ulumi joining the band in performing Sleigh Bells at Ramapo’s 2024 Winter Concert – from graduates of the 70s to 2022.

There’s no better way to kick off the holiday season than to attend the Ramapo band’s winter concert. Each holiday season, the talented students of Ramapo come together to perform a myriad of pieces that are undoubtedly the result of the hard work and dedication of both the band members and the band director himself, Mr. Sloezen. 


Mr. Sloezen who has been Ramapo’s band director for two years now, works to highlight the skills and capabilities of each section, while also attempting to challenge the group with a variety of music that exposes students to new sounds and rhythms and dares them to play out of their comfort zone.


The combined Symphonic Band, which is open to all students who take band as a class,  performed “Tribal Quest” and “Bamboo Warrior”. The Wind Ensemble, which students must be selected to be a part of, performed “Nightmare Before Christmas”, “Arabian Dances”, and the classic holiday favorite, “Sleigh Ride”, an annual tradition here at Ramapo that is conducted by a guest teacher and features appearances by Ramapo band alumni. 


Mr. Sloezen commented on the pieces chosen: “Almost all of the songs were chosen in ways that highlight our strong sections within the band. We have a very large low brass and percussion section, so I made sure to pick music that featured them and had enough parts so that they were heavily involved. We also have very strong woodwinds this year so I made sure to include fast, technical sections that I knew they would be able to play with practice…I also use the music selection process as a time to work on skills that the ensemble needs to develop as a whole. This can be breathing, articulation, playing higher notes, phrasing…I also believe that the style of each song needs to be varied, not only to keep variety in what the audience is hearing but to expose the band students and audience to new music and sounds they may have never heard but really enjoy once they do.”


Mr. Sloezen remarked that it is always a challenge to perform a winter concert in December due to the multiple breaks that interrupt rehearsal times as well as the normal adjustments needed for the freshman class transitioning into high school. Additionally, the Symphonic Band often rehearses in five separate sections which often have an unequal separation of instruments, which can make finding a balance and blend of all the parts very difficult. Despite these apparent challenges, Mr. Sloezen applauded both bands on their ability to perform their pieces beautifully. 


Lauren Fleissner, a senior at Ramapo, oboe and clarinet player, member of Wind Ensemble, and manager of Jazz Band commented on what she would say to incoming freshman or current Ramapo students who are considering joining the band, Lauren responded, “To any incoming members of the band or those thinking about joining, do it! Any band at Ramapo is a great way to meet new people and keep music in your life. Mr. Sloezen is an amazing director who wants what’s best for all of his students musically and beyond. I can personally attest to his kindness, and I’m so glad to call him a mentor figure of mine for these past few years. Band has done so much for me, from introducing me to some of my best friends to helping me grow into myself and my confidence, and I’m certain that it will have the same effect for incoming members!”   


When asked about her hopes for the upcoming spring concert, she responded, “In terms of goals, our current repertoire for the Spring Concert definitely has some more challenging music than the Winter Concert, but I’m certain it’s a good challenge. I’m hoping that with a few months of focused, hard work from each individual, we can make the groups sound even better than at our last performance. We have a great opportunity to make this music really exciting and powerful, and I hope that the band can help my senior year go out with a bang!”

Mr. Sloezen concluded his thoughts on the musician’s ability as a band. “I always stress the importance of taking ownership of the group or ensemble that you are a part of. The skill level of the group is irrelevant, what really matters is whether we are progressing as a group and did we put every bit of effort and focus into rehearsal that we could. It is this dedication and drive that I think allows musicians to walk away from the concert feeling satisfied. The group is very strong this year, and as we get into the spring, I know they will only continue to improve and play together more as an ensemble instead of individual musicians.”

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