The Valley Echo

The Valley Echo

The Valley Echo

The Valley Echo

The Valley Echo

The Valley Echo

High notes from this year in the PV band

Members+of+the+PV+Band+reflect+on+their+year+of+accomplishments.+
Contributed by Craig Yaremko
Members of the PV Band reflect on their year of accomplishments.

This school year the Pascack Valley Band has participated in new events, spanning from PV hockey games to the NJ State Jazz finals, and has won multiple awards.

“I think it’s been a great year,” PV Band Director Craig Yaremko said. “The strength of their performances and the level of musicality and musicianship that everybody in the band shows has really elevated during the time I’ve been here (the past year and a half).” 

Pascack Valley senior and PV Band member Ming-Lang Qin believes that one reason the band has grown this year is Yaremko’s dedication.  

“This year was probably the best year we’ve ever had in band. We’ve entered a bunch of different competitions this year,” Qin said. “Yaremko has brought us to the level where we can play at the [NJ State Jazz Finals] and have a competitive chance because the passion he brings makes everyone want to improve.” 

The PV Jazz Band has been involved in many different events this year including attending the Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington Jazz Festival at Newark Academy. According to Yaremko, members of the band felt more relaxed because it was not a competition and they had participated in it last year.

“It was great for students to see [other] people their age playing music at such a high level,” Yaremko said. “Each experience that we get [going to these events] helps students settle in. It’s definitely nerve-racking to get up and perform in front of people.” 

Qin agrees with Yaremko that it was beneficial to see other students playing at the festival. 

“We were able to see a lot of great bands [including] the Newark Academy Band, which is like the best [high school] jazz band in the nation right now,” Qin said. “It was really inspiring to see them [Newark Academy Band] and [hear] how good they sounded as high schoolers. I feel like the whole band felt their presence and was inspired to play.” 

At the Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington Jazz Festival, senior guitarist Thomas Santos, trombonist Ming-Lang Qin, and junior pianist Jaden Martinez all won Outstanding Soloist awards. 

“From each band, they [judges] select the soloists who they feel were the strongest,” Yaremko said. “Some bands get one soloist. We were strong enough to have three.”

The festival also helped the band practice the music they were going to play at the NJ State Jazz Finals at Metuchen High School. 

In order to play at the NJ State Jazz Finals, the band had to pass the NJ State Jazz Preliminary. At the Preliminary, Qin and sophomore alto-saxophonist Ming-Yang Qin both won Honorable Mention Outstanding Soloist awards. 

“There were many strong soloists out of the nine bands that performed,” Yaremko said. “[There were] only four [honorable mention] awards and two went to our band, so that was exciting.”

Qin thinks the PV Band’s support helped him win the award.

“In jazz, there’s a lot of communication between the different instruments in the band, so the pianists and the soloists will respond to each other during the solos,” Qin said. “I felt like that was happening when I was playing my solo, which allowed me to get the award.” 

Since the PV Jazz Band scored high enough in the preliminary round, they qualified for the NJ State Jazz Finals for the first time. Although, they didn’t win the competition.

At the North Jersey School Music Association (NJSMA) Region Concert Band Festival, the PV Band earned a Gold rating, and Ming-Yang Qin was awarded an Outstanding Soloist award. This award was different from the award he received at the Preliminary. 

Yaremko thinks there is a lot of talent among the graduating members of the PV Band. According to Yaremko, Qin made the All-State Jazz Band for 2023, so he performed a concert in Atlantic City and at NJPAC. 

“[Qualifying for] All-State Jazz Band was one of the highlights of my high school career,” Qin said. “I put in a ton of work and met with Yaremko a lot because he was willing to push me to the level that I needed to be at to audition.”

Since Yaremko was previously the Holdrum Middle School band teacher, he has been teaching some of the seniors in the PV Band since middle school. 

“I had Nicole, Richard, Ming-Lang, and Nathaniel when they were in 6th grade, so it’s very sweet for me to have taught them in middle school and then get another year and a half with them to see them graduate as high school seniors,” Yaremko said.  

Qin also finds this continued student-director relationship special.

“It’s certainly really sad for a lot of the kids in the band [to leave], especially from Holdrum [Middle School] because we’ve been with Yaremko for our entire music careers,” Qin said. 

During Yaremko’s time at PV, he has enjoyed working with all the senior band students.  

“The senior band class [members] are all special to me. I’ll miss all of them [the seniors in PV Band].” Yaremko said. “Seniors like Tolu Bosede, Juan Zapateiro, and Jess Grady [among others] were not former students of mine, but it’s been really great to get a chance to know and work with them [throughout] the past year and a half.”

While Yaremko had a great time working with his senior band students, they also enjoyed being part of the band.

“At the spring concert, we [seniors in the band] realized that we’re never going to perform on the stage with these people again and that we enjoyed a lot of the moments [made in the band],” Qin said.

As a senior, Qin decided to take on a senior project that pursued his passion for jazz by creating a jazz album. He has collaborated with many of his friends who also are in PV Band for some of the songs. The styles range from Latin Samba to Funk.

 

“I’m recording five songs and diving deep into them by learning all of their chords, so I’ve learned five songs of contrasting styles to [explore] a broad range of jazz,” Qin said. 

This year, the PV band also made changes to its ‘marching’ band, called the Panther’s Band, by no longer marching. They were able to concentrate more on the music rather than learning how to march. This would musically help them when they play for the Concert Band and Jazz Band, according to Yaremko. 

“I think it allowed us to focus more on music and attitude,” Yaremko said. “The bottom line is that students at PV are very busy. The Panther’s Band is set up so students can participate in other activities like sports, and then still come and play at whatever event we are doing.”

The Panther’s Band has more than doubled in size from the previous fall and has established a connection to the school community.

“When we’re playing in the football stands, the student section is right next to us moving, dancing, cheering, and getting loud based on what we’re doing as well,” Yaremko said. “The Panther’s Band is a band that’s meant to help develop community, spirit, and pride, which is what we do here at PV.”

While the PV Band played at a Fairleigh Dickinson University basketball game and a PV girl’s varsity soccer game among others, Yaremko thinks the band enjoyed playing at the PV hockey game the most because they didn’t typically play near an ice rink, so it was a unique experience. 

“A lot more events [sport games] like that are coming up for next year,” Yaremko said. “I think that the band is getting more attention and the energy from that really inspires me to keep it [the band] going.”  

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