Home Mt Laurel News Two LHS musicians hit all the right notes

Two LHS musicians hit all the right notes

Percussionist Craig DiGiamarino, trombonist Matt Wall have been accepted to perform at all-state level

Left to right: Craig DiGiamarino and Matt Wall pose with their instruments (Len Nicholas/ Special to The Sun).

Two Lenape High School juniors have recently proven that hard work and passion pay off, even if it takes a few tries.

Percussionist Craig DiGiamarino and trombonist Matt Wall have been accepted into the New Jersey All State Symphonic Band and the New Jersey All State Orchestra, respectively. While this is the first time both have had an opportunity to play at the all-state level, it is not their first time auditioning for such an honor.

“This was my third time auditioning,” said DiGiamarino. “I was really excited when I found out that I made it.”

Wall had auditioned last year and is similarly excited to play on a statewide stage.

“It is thrilling to be accepted!” he exclaimed. “I went into the audition thinking I wasn’t going to be able to get in, but after getting the results back, it was really exciting to know that I made it.”

Both students have played in South Jersey-only bands and expect that playing with even more select company will be a welcome challenge that pushes them to reach for next-level artistry.

“Every time I’ve been in an honors ensemble, the people who are better than me push me to be better,” noted DiGiamarino, who made his All South Jersey Symphonic Band debut in seventh grade. “We’ve already had our first rehearsal, and I think the music’s a lot more challenging.”

“I imagine there will be a lot more professionalism in our performance; it’ll definitely be more challenging and there’ll be more musicianship in the pieces,” Wall added. “It’s not just playing the notes: It’s more about the dynamics you can put into the music and really feel what you’re playing.”

Lenape High School Band Director Len Nicholas isn’t at all surprised that two student musicians who are as dedicated to their craft as DiGiamarino and Wall are finding such success in their musical pursuits.

“It’s rewarding as a teacher to work with these energetic young men who are exactly what you want in music students,” Nicholas said. “Matt is very enthusiastic and practices all the time, and it’s not just me who sees how good he is: When he was practicing during rehearsals for the Olympic Conference band, another director walked by and said ‘That kid sounds great!’ And Craig has been staying after school, practicing percussion and also has gotten high praise from other directors.”

DiGiamarino says his musical journey began with piano lessons when he was 5 or 6, though he traded the ivories for percussion a few years later.

“I started percussion in fourth grade and started taking lessons outside of school in fifth grade, but I really started to get a lot more into it when I was in sixth grade, which is when I did my first honors band,” he recalled. “I have a real passion for music.

“What I like the best about percussion is the diversity in instruments: There are so many things you can play, and a lot of different styles.”

Wall, meanwhile, was immediately drawn to the trombone in fourth grade and is loathe to ever put it down.

“I’m going into my eighth year playing the trombone, and I love it,” he said. “It was really interesting to hear how bad I was when I first started playing, and I was like, ‘I need to do this better.’ So I started practicing all the time.

“Now I spend around four or five hours a day practicing, and I spend most of my lunch practicing in the band room. You have to be one with the instrument to really know it.”

While Wall isn’t sure what the future holds for him musically beyond high school, DiGiamarino feels certain he’ll pursue a college degree in music, though he’s still uncertain if he wants to be an educator or a performer.

Both students agree there is a considerable barrier to entry for anyone who first picks up an instrument — and that it’s more than worth it to keep on playing.

“Don’t give up on it,” DiGiamarino advised. “It takes some effort to get going. It can be tedious when you’re still beginning and learning to read music. Now, I feel like I’m at my best when I’m performing.”

“You’re going to have off days,” Wall added. “One of the hardest parts is not getting stressed out by those off days. Just take it slow: If you’re struggling with one part, then just put the instrument down and come at it the next day. Or play something that you know well and know you can play it.”

DiGiamarino will play with the All State Symphonic Band Feb. 23 at Newark’s New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC). Wall will perform with the All State Orchestra during the NJ Teachers Convention in Atlantic City Nov. 6 and again Nov. 15 at NJPAC.

And their high school music director is eager for them to take their talents to a whole new level, both for their benefit and that of their peers.

“For these two guys, they’re just enjoying music and improving themselves every day,” Nicholas said. “I think that will cross over to benefit other aspects of their lives. If you work hard in one area, you’ll work hard in other areas. And when their classmates see them rehearsing and practicing this hard, I hope that’ll inspire them to enjoy it as much as Matt and Craig do.

“It’s hard work to get better,” the band director added, “but once you get to a certain level, there’s a sense of accomplishment and playing music gets so much more enjoyable.”

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