Downbeat, a new 15-member student organization featuring instrumental and vocal musicians, meets several times a week at Newark High School.
The group began making music together when school started in September.
Downbeat is the brainchild of Bob Humphrey, NHS instrumental music teacher, who also directs NHS Jazz Band, Concert Band, Wind Ensemble and Marching Band.
“It’s a ton of fun,” Humphrey said. “They’re awesome. They work very hard. We’re only six weeks into this, and they’re already performing 45 minutes worth of music.”
Members include junior Abigail Belliveau on bass guitar, electric guitar, flute, baritone and vocals; sophomore Anna Bouwens on electric guitar, piano, flute and vocals; senior Megan Cauwels on vocals and percussion; senior Nick Cepulo on drums, auxiliary percussion and vocals; junior Alexander Collom on trombone, bass guitar and vocals; junior Amanda Colombo on baritone saxophone, tenor saxophone and vocals; junior Emma Correia on alto saxophone, soprano saxophone and vocals; freshman Joseph Malach on trombone and vocals; junior Lauren Mays on alto saxophone and vocals; freshman Joshua Mercer on drums, auxiliary percussion, piano and vocals; freshman Stephen Skvarek on piano, bass guitar, percussion and vocals; junior Anisha Stallworth on vocals and percussion; freshman Julius Teabout on trumpet and vocals; sophomore Kayla Williams on vibraphone, auxiliary percussion and vocals; and junior Mallory Williams on trumpet, French horn, flugelhorn, piano and vocals.
Modeled after The Blues Brothers and Chicago, Downbeat features a horn and rhythm section as well as three singers who perform any type of music.
Humphrey said the group will learn 74 songs this year, including music by Journey, The Four Seasons, Blink 182, Jet, Nat King Cole, Gloria Estefan, Van Morrison, Elvis Presley, Maynard Ferguson, Lee Greenwood, Elton John, Billy Joel, The Beatles, Neil Diamond, The Killers and The Miami Sound Machine.
Humphrey does all the musical arrangements for the group that, so far, has played at school district functions including NHS and Perkins School homecoming pep rallies and a high school football game.
Humphrey’s intent in forming Downbeat was to provide talented musicians with a real life opportunity to experience what it’s like to be a member of a real rock band.
“I want these kids to learn about every aspect of a gig, including setting up speakers, being responsible for their own PR and advertisement as well as performance and knowledge of equipment,’’ Humphrey said. ”It’s all about getting them experience. We want to get them out into the community. They are really unique, and could play at so many different kinds of events.”
Colombo said she likes being a member of Downbeat because of her passion for music, which she says is soothing and relieves stress.
“This is my family outside of my family,’’ she said.
Cepulo said he enjoys the sense of teamwork and camaraderie among musicians that being a member of a smaller band affords. Correia said she enjoys the variety of music the band performs.
“It’s what makes it more fun,” she said.
“I think this is really an awesome opportunity,” Malach said. “No other school in the area has this.”
“It’s kind of like making music our own way,” Stallworth said.
Bouwens said more students in the district will be able to see the group perform, because Downbeat is versatile in the kind of events where it can perform.
Belliveau said she likes the fact that members can play more than one instrument in the band.
Skvarek, who wants to pursue music after he graduates, said being in Downbeat provides experience.
Many of the students said they like playing music they don’t normally play or sing in other high school venues.