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A superior performance

Godwin Heights — Senior Fernando Bresso admits that after spending so much time watching his siblings participate in marching band, he was interested in being a part of it.

“I would rather do than see,” he said. Which is probably a good thing because in February, Fernando’s playing earned a rating of 1, or superior, from the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association’s District X Solo & Ensemble — Godwin’s first in about 10 years.

“When I was finished, I was pretty satisfied with my performance,” Fernando said. “Of course there were some things I wished I could have done better, but I came out of the room satisfied with what I had done and I figured I might have scored a 2, or maybe a 1.

“I was pretty excited to find out that in 10 years I was the first person to get a 1.”

The superior rating qualified Fernando for the Michigan Solo & Ensemble Festival in March, and he was scheduled to perform it at the May 4 band concert at the high school. 

“He has a lot of intuitiveness when it comes to music,” said Band Director Roger Wagner, which was one of the reasons he said he selected Fernando to participate in March. 

Senior Fernando Bresso practices with band director Roger Wagner

A Supportive District

The district has a one-to-one program where students who want to participate in band are provided instruments. The 2020 bond millage request approved by voters included the purchase of new band instruments. 

“We are very lucky as a district because we have an extremely supportive administration and school board for the music program,” Wagner said.

The Godwin band program has done well in the past 20 years, turning out four state champions in the Flight IV division of the Michigan Competing Bands Association state finals. But when Wagner, who has been with the district for a couple of years, looked at past solo and ensemble records, he said he was surprised that he could not find any participation from Godwin Heights.

‘I want to see more people go for it.’

– senior Fernando Bresso

Having recognized that participating in those programs helps to grow the band, Wagner connected with a couple of students, including Fernando, about the annual competition.

“By having student leaders in our band program such as Fernando participate, it encourages other students to want to try as well,” Wagner said. 

At the event, soloists and small ensemble groups perform in front of judges who typically teach music at a Michigan college or university. Judges rate and also offer tips and techniques for improvement. Wagner said this not only helps improve the overall band program but it also builds students’ confidence in music and beyond. 

This was the case for Fernando, who said that through music he found his math skills becoming stronger and plans to study computer science after graduation. 

“A lot of the rhythms are pretty math based,” he said, adding that because he enjoys math so much he found musical rhythms easy. “When you think about it, rhythms have to be precise and math is precise, so basically they are meant for each other.”

Senior Fernando Bresso celebrates his rating of a 1 with his mother at February’s Solo & Ensemble (courtesy)

Sax State of Mind

After watching his siblings in band, Fernando decided to also join. Since his brother had been in the brass section, Fernando was thinking trumpet. But in seventh-grade band, he was assigned to the saxophone.

“I was told they needed saxophone players,” Fernando said. He started with the tenor sax and then switched to alto, which is what he currently plays. “I just liked how it sounds,” Fernando said of the alto saxophone. “I found it easy to play.”

Which is not what he found, at first, for the music he performed at solo and ensemble, which was “Fantaisie,” by Denis Bédard, a piece that undergraduates typically perform. He met with Wagner after school for several months to work  on the piece.

“I was nervous,” Fernando said. “The closer it got, the more and more nervous I was. I had never performed like that as a soloist and never in front of a judge.

“I have to be honest, I kind of knew I had a 1 because the judge said the next time he heard me play this piece at state, he would expect to hear more vibrato in certain areas.”

And while earning a medal for his performance is “cool,” Fernando said, he hopes his legacy at the school is encouraging others not only to participate in band but also to attend solo & ensemble. Wagner said he has had several students talk to him about next year’s event and have begun to look at music, which Fernando was happy to hear.

“I am pretty sure people are talking about it right now,” Fernando said of his solo and ensemble win. “They might want to do it and having done it myself, I want to see more people go for it.”

Explore more unique video stories of students learning, interesting school programs and educators working to help all children succeed.

Senior Fernando Bresso performs at Solo & Ensemble (courtesy)
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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma covers Kent ISD and Godwin Heights. She was born in the Detroit area but grew up in Brighton where she attended Hartland Public Schools. The salutatorian for the Class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism and minored in photography and German. She expanded her color palette to include orange and black as both her daughters graduated from Byron Center Public Schools; maroon and white for Aquinas College where her daughter studies nursing and also brought back blue and maize for Grand Rapids Community College where her youngest daughter currently is studying music. Read Joanne's full bio

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