Two Jockey Hollow musicians join an ‘all-star’ ensemble

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Jockey Hollow Middle School students Jason Magalnick, left, and Harry Li, who is enrolled at the STEM Academy, will perform at the Western Region Middle School Music Festival at Wilton High School this March.

The best middle school instrumental music students from Connecticut’s western region auditioned at Fairfield Woods Middle School in Fairfield on Saturday, Dec. 3, for the right to perform at the Western Region Middle School Music Festival to be held at Wilton High School in March — and two musicians from Jockey Hollow stood out.

The Western Region Concert Band, “essentially an all-star ensemble”, chose Jason Magalnick, from Jockey Hollow’s main campus, to play percussion and Harry Li from from the STEM Academy for alto saxophone, according to Mark Bilotta, band director for Jockey Hollow and STEM Academy.

“I am so proud of Jason and Harry,” Bilotta said. “They are both extremely hard-working students whose love and passion for music is evident every single day. It is a joy to work with them and watch them grow and they are so deserving of this honor of being selected for Western Regionals.”

For the audition, students had to learn and perform a solo piece for their instrument as well as several memorized scales and sight reading exercises — playing music they had never seen before on the spot, according to Bilotta.

He said the auditions were highly competitive and only a select number of students are chosen for each instrument, “so this is truly a great accomplishment for Jason and Harry.”

Of his audition, Magalnick said, “the preparation was hard and I had to learn some new things, but after enough tries I felt like I could finally nail it. It took a long time to prepare it, but in the end it was all worth it. It took serious dedication and standing at my drum for hours on end.”

Now that the ensembles have been chosen, students will go to Wilton High School in March for two days of intense rehearsals with prominent guest conductors and clinicians, culminating in a concert in the performing arts center on the second day.

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