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Ipswich High musicians rock with The Mighty Mighty BossTones

Ipswich High horn players and The Mighty Mighty BossTones at the Outside the Box Performing Arts Festival in Boston. Peter Senechal

Waiting to go on stage, standing 20 feet from the wild scene in the mosh pit, Colin Senechal had never seen his friends and fellow musicians so excited.

“They had us backstage, ready to go on, and then we finally got on stage, and it was, ‘Whoa,’ ” said Senechal, recalling the experience of playing in front of a Boston Common crowd estimated by organizers at close to 60,000.

For six Ipswich High horn players, last month’s Outside the Box festival in Boston offered a unique opportunity to play with The Mighty Mighty BossTones in the festival’s grand finale.

With the temperatures soaring and the mosh pit hopping, Ipswich seniors Senechal, Conor Fitzpatrick, Ryan Fremont-Smith, Ryan Davis, Michael Riddle, and Henry Zagarella joined the band for “The Impression That I Get,” its most commercially successful tune, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard magazine modern rock tracks chart in 1997 (and No. 23 on its “Hot 100 Airplay” chart in 1998).

“It was awesome,” Zagarella said. “[The crowd] was really crazy.”


The Ipswich students, all 17 years old, were the winners of the Music Matters Mighty Mighty Horns Contest, sponsored by the Salem Five and Haverhill-based radio station WXRV-FM (The River 92.5). After submitting a YouTube video of themselves playing the BossTones’s song, they beat out other contestants for the spot on the show that concluded the free, nine-day performing arts festival, plus a $2,500 gift from Salem Five to the Ipswich High School music department.

Gerry Dolan, director of fine arts and band director at Ipswich High, said the group of musicians — all members of the North Shore Jazz All-Stars, a 17- to 20-piece ensemble of high school musicians that plays traditional jazz and modern funk — are as good as any he has seen in his 28-year career.


“They’re among the best I’ve had, and I’ve had quite a few good ones,” said Dolan, who attended the concert on the common. “The number one thing about this group is that they just like playing music. They love to get together, figure things out, and just play.”

Prior to entering the contest, Senechal was the only member of the Ipswich group familiar with the BossTones, an American ska-core band that formed in 1983, released its first CD in 1989, and had a platinum-selling CD “Let’s Face It” in 1997.

“My dad had the record, so I’ve known the tune since I was about 5,” Senechal said. “I haven’t listened to it recently, but once we got into the contest I thought I should check out their music more, and it’s really cool.”

The others soon became fans of the band and the song as well.

“I’ve liked it ever since I heard it,” Zagarella said. “Playing with them was so much fun. They have so much energy.”

For the members of the Ipswich group, one of the highlights came during the morning sound check when BossTones trombone player Chris Rhodes stopped playing and instead just danced and sang — something he did again during the performance.

“He said he felt we could take care of it,” Zagarella said.

Band manager Darren Hill said Rhodes was not the only member of the BossTones who was impressed by the musicianship of the Ipswich group.

“The [BossTones] were completely impressed during sound check — blown away,” said Hill.


Sax player Tim Burton agreed.

“My first impression was that these guys can play,” he said. “It wasn’t just like we were dragging up some amateurs. These guys sounded good, they were in tune, they knew the parts, they played with confidence. I think it sounded great.”

That night, near the end of the concert, the students bounded on stage and lead singer Dicky Barrett had Senechal introduce his mates.

“Then we just started to play, and everyone went crazy,” said Zagarella.

When that song was over, the band launched into “Lights Out” (“a quick, loud fast one”) and had them dance along to it.

“It was a great night,” said Dolan. “They were so pumped, and everyone treated them really well.”

The band enjoys inviting others to join them on stage, Burton said.

“We’ve played with a lot of guys from other bands, and they’re always good, but these guys were just as good if not better. I think it added a lot to the experience,” Burton said. “We were standing on stage in Boston, our hometown, and it’s a beautiful night, and you’re looking out and there’s basically people as far as you can see. For me it was awesome, so I can only imagine what it was like for a high school kid who maybe has never done anything like that before.”

“It was kind of mind-blowing,” Senechal said.

E-mail David Rattigan at DRattigan.Globe@gmail.com.