A Year in the Life of a New York Band Program—From Football Field to Lincoln Center to Pomp and Circumstance: Part II

Co-directed by MENC members Ferdinand (Fred) Pasqua and Charles Briem, the marching Huskies at Harrison High School in New York’s Westchester County are 150 strong in a school of about 900 students. The Huskies marched in the town Memorial Day Parade on May 25 as part of their busy year of performances.

Briem said each fall the band welcomes beginning students who have never played an instrument before as well as seasoned players. “We try to open the doors to all students. We want the band to be accessible,” he said.

Pasqua said that requires them to be flexible: “I enjoy working with both experienced and beginning students, but it’s a balancing act. The beginning students work separately with us to master the music. But a number of experienced students also ask for individual or small group lessons on music they find challenging.”

The Huskies have both a swing band for beginning students and jazz band for more experienced players. “No matter their playing level, I want the students to be exposed to music of all types,” said Pasqua.

That is another reason he encourages his students to buy music to play and practice apart from band assignments, whether it’s jazz, classical, rock and roll, or Broadway show tunes.

Briem said, “The music we select always serves a purpose. For example, cartoon theme songs may be fun for the audience to listen to, but they are also hard to play. Kids can be motivated to work hard but have fun playing, too.”

Ferdinand Pasqua

Pasqua’s own varied music background helps him expand students’ horizons. A professional musician and clinician, he has degrees in music education, music performance, and administration.

As director of the Harrison Huskies Band, Pasqua has led the Harrison High School Band in Performances at

  • Disney World Main Street Parade (Magic Music Days)
  • The Heritage Music Festivals in Nashville, San Francisco, and Atlanta
  • Performances in Giants Stadium and Yankee Stadium
  • Charleston, SC; Williamsburg, VA; Annapolis, MD
  • Atlanta’s Peach Bowl Festival
  • Quebec Music Festival
  • The Berklee Jazz Festival in Boston, MA
  • The Sleepy Hollow Jazz Festival in Tarrytown, NY

Charles Briem

Briem, too, has had a diverse and eclectic career in both the fields of business and of music. He has performed professionally for more than 25 years in a variety of settings from concert work to club engagements. A jazz arranger, he has studied composition and arranging with Benny Carter, Tony Riposo, Phil Klein, and William Gearhardt.

Part 1

Harrison High School Band   Podcasts

Photos by Gary Morgen Photography

Roz Fehr, May 28, 2009. © MENC: The National Association for Music Education