BROCKTON — Every day, the words of Vincent Macrina greet Brockton High School students as they walk into the band room: “The greatest impediment to progress is setting low expectations and achieving them.”
There is no time for wrong notes when Macrina, 70, is leading the band. On Tuesday, students filled the auditorium stage, warming up in a flurry of sound.
“Let’s go,” he called. No dawdling, just business.
Maybe destiny brought Macrina to Brockton High School as a music teacher in 1971. He arrived and never left, training scores of musicians and becoming director of music education for the Brockton Public Schools. He knows what students are capable of if they commit to practice. When they don’t, Macrina can hear the difference and lets them know it.
“Preparation is everything,” Macrina said, standing before them.
Despite snow days stealing rehearsal opportunities, the Brockton High School Advanced Concert Band prepared for months to bring an original piece of music about the city to life.
On Wednesday, Randy Klein, a New York-based composer and pianist, was set to watch the students perform a piece he was commissioned to write in honor of the city and the Rotary Club’s 100th anniversary. The piece, in three movements, celebrates Brockton’s historic shoe industry, champions, and diverse populace.
“He’s telling a story,” Macrina said. “It’s not straightforward. It was interesting to teach. We talked about historical things about Brockton and immigration.”
Klein spent time with the band during rehearsal, explaining his vision and listening from the back of the room.
“Vinny really knows his band, and he knows how to do it, and he knows how to talk to them and conduct them,” Klein said. “In the two days I’ve been here, we’ve pulled these three pieces together. At a certain point, there’s nothing I can do, I’m letting go of it and I say, ‘Wow. That’s really what you were imagining. That’s the sound you were hearing.’ And it’s pretty close.”
The composition for Brockton began as a passing thought. Amy Korim, a lifetime Brockton resident and concert pianist, met Klein at a jazz concert. Last year, she read about a piece he wrote called “Fanfare for Jerusalem,” performed by 400 voices at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House.
“I thought if Randy could write a piece for 400 voices, maybe he could write a piece about the history and the pulse of Brockton,” Korim said.
In one phone call, she presented Klein with a thorough history lesson on Brockton.
She spoke of its days as an epicenter for shoe manufacturers, who employed thousands of workers. That history was woven into the composition’s first movement, “Shoe Town.”
Korim also told Klein about boxer and Brockton native Rocky Marciano, for years the heavyweight champion of the world, who retired undefeated in 1956. Marciano and local heroes inspired Klein’s second movement, called “City of Champions.” Finally, she talked about the city’s immigrant history, which helped inform the composition’s third movement, “A New Diversity.”
“This concert band is a microcosm of the entire city,” Korim said. “They’re playing in perfect harmony, sitting together, and working together. They know they’re doing something special.”
The students’ focus reminded Korim of a professional orchestra; the kids admitted it was a challenge. The students are used to looking up music and listening to how it’s supposed to sound. Though Klein sent them a recording, performing the piece felt like paving a new path.
“It started off as slow, messy, unpolished confusion,” said Aysha Cheretakis, 18, a senior at Brockton High, who plays the bassoon. “And slowly, very slowly, it came together.”
Brockton senior Cole Analoro, 17, said at first the students didn’t recognize the story Klein was trying to tell. But as they learned more about the city, they began to recognize those details in the music.
“We saw the story come to life,” Analoro said. “It portrays Brockton as something so awesome.”
Cristela Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.