Godfrey-Lee, East Grand Rapids — What began as an idea for a concert collaboration between two school communities, evolved into something incredible.
At more than 100 musicians strong, Lee and East Grand Rapids high school bands recently performed a concert side-by-side titled “United in Harmony,” a dedication to Ukrainian refugees.
“We are the same community just a few miles apart,” EGR High School Band Director Jake Castillo said. “The kids came together and played great music. It was the most incredible concert I’ve ever done in my life.”
Lee High School Band Director Kevin Gabrielse reached out to Castillo in December with the idea to bring their two bands together for a combined performance, months before Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.
“United in harmony was the goal all along,” Gabrielse said. “When you throw music in the mix, it binds us all together. It was an absolute home run; the kids loved it and were raving about it afterwards.”
The program opened with the Ukrainian National Anthem, followed by three pieces about unity and strength, and closed with a piece titled “Albanian Dance,” in honor of neighboring countries that are taking in Ukrainian refugees.
‘United in harmony was the goal all along. When you throw music in the mix, it binds us all together.’– Kevin Gabrielse, Lee High School band director
Gabrielse said preparing music for the concert pushed his own teaching abilities and “pushed the envelope” for his students.
“The world is so much bigger than our little band room,” he said.
Castillo and Gabrielse credited both schools’ administration teams and music boosters for their support, and said they hope to continue to collaborate.
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