City High Orchestra Performs 42nd Annual Dessert Concert

Tai Caputo, Opinion Co-Editor

Last Wednesday’s Dessert Concert was not a typical City High Orchestra event. Members of the three orchestras garnished their usual black outfits with glittering red accents. They performed not their standard classical pieces but soundtrack highlights from Broadway musicals.  

Ticket buyers for this annual fundraiser were treated with candy and unpopped popcorn to enjoy at home. 

Megan Stucky-Swanson, Orchestra Director at City High, said that the Dessert Concert is “probably one of the main concerts that the students and parents and community look forward to. Not everybody is a fan of classical music or understands it, but most people can relate to the music, some of the music at least, that’s performed in the Dessert Concert, because it’s more recognizable, therefore I think more people enjoy it.”

This year’s theme, Bravo to Broadway, was chosen by Stucky-Swanson and approved by students. “I often ask students for their input. This year I chose the theme of Bravo to Broadway, and then asked students, ‘What music would you like to see or play in this concert?’ and I chose the repertoire this year based on their suggestions. And so each year looks a little different.”

The fundraiser brings in revenue each year from ticket sales and contributions, and helps fund orchestra costs. 

“We do get some money from the Music Auxiliary, and the District, but it’s never enough,” Stucky-Swanson said. “So this helps offset some of the things we need to buy, and we’re able to do that.” 

The event is called the Dessert Concert because afterwards there is usually a dessert reception. However, after the COVID-19 pandemic, the reception has changed. 

“Typically, the dessert concert is followed by a large reception in the cafeteria,” Stucky-Swanson said. “We typically have cupcakes, coffee, punch, and a jazz combo from City plays. Everyone mingles and listens to live jazz and enjoys a post-concert celebration with treats. And since COVID, we haven’t been able to do that, so we’ve changed it a little bit to make little take-home boxes with goodies. I think we’re anxious to get back to the reception part of it again!” 

Stucky-Swanson discussed the ways in which pop music requires different skill sets than classical music does. 

“Typically, pop music or show tunes or rock music is actually trickier than what students think it’ll be, because the rhythms are often very tricky,” Stucky-Swanson said. “And it isn’t necessarily easy to sightread or play accurately, in the beginning. So it takes a little bit different focus to be able to execute pop music well, because it’s so rhythmically tricky.”

Sam Glass ‘25, a cellist in the Philharmonic Orchestra, said that he enjoyed having the opportunity to play non-classical music in a classical setting.

“We’re able to have a lot more fun with it,” Glass said. “I feel like I don’t have to sit as stiffly. We can put movement into some of our playing; I was bouncing in my seat for Master of the House from Les Mis. It’s a bit more exciting music to play–not that it’s not exciting, but it’s so different, that we’re able to have a lot more fun with it.”

Glass discussed the different types of challenges.

“Creating cohesion as an ensemble and making sure everyone was working in unison and playing together making sure the different parts meshed [were some challenges in preparing for the Dessert Concert],” Glass said. “We had some more challenging rhythms than we generally do in classical works, and different sections other than the first violins were featured a lot more, so we (the cello section) had to learn to adapt to getting the melody for half the piece, or quieting down a lot so you could hear the violas.” 

Glass emphasized his love of the orchestra community. 

“Our community–this is especially what I love about being in [the] Philharmonic [Orchestra],” Glass said. “The cello section, we talk to each other, we hang out. I have a lot of friends in orchestra, so we all feel very comfortable with each other, and I think that improves our ability to play, so we’re all friends.”