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The Forest Scout’s 2024 Musicians of the Year: The Band Women

Graphic courtesy of Taylor Ross.
Graphic courtesy of Taylor Ross.

The night before applications were due for the 2021 Talent Show, seniors Avery Morris, Meghan Pierce, and Maria Kyriacou – now known as “The Band Women” – had decisively chosen not to audition, until the very last minute when they decided to take a chance on it.

Fast forward two years later, the trio recently performed in the closing act of The 2024 Talent Show, a spot reserved for the “most passionate and dedicated group” according to Talent Show Teacher Director Mr. Corey Holmer.

“Their collective strengths transform them into a supergroup, unlike any other act I’ve enjoyed working with or watching on the Talent Show stage,” said Holmer.

In 2021, the three formed their musical group “The Band Women” as a parody of the well-known Band Boys, admitting that, initially, they were “making fun of them.”

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“Initially, we thought that [The Band Women] was kind of funny, and there was definitely a little competition between the two groups,” said Koen Brown, member of the Band Boys and LFHS alum.

Despite the rivalry between them, the two groups formed an unlikely bond when the Band Boys convinced the Band Women to audition for their first Talent Show.

“We were really scared to do the Talent Show because the Band Boys were really good, and living up to that was difficult,” said Kyriacou. “But Koen Brown [member of the Band Boys] encouraged us. All of the Band Boys were very good leaders in their own regards and that little initial push really helped us.”

With Kyriacou on the Trumpet, Morris on the Tenor Saxophone, and Pierce on the Alto Saxophone, the three have been captivating audiences during their performances at events including TedXLFHS and the Talent Show. The infectious energy that the three exude on stage every performance is what allows The Band Women to connect with audiences so deeply.

“What The Band Women aim to do is create a vibe. We try to make people feel good, that’s what we do in our performances, we create an ambiance,” said Morris. “The ambiance you can create with two of your best friends, playing something you love and doing it together, is so amazing.”

The planning, organization, and thought put into each performance – whether it be Kyriacou doing the moonwalk on stage during a performance of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”, or the three coordinating vibrant colored dresses while performing La La Land’s “Someone in the Crowd” – is what allows the Band Women to create a transformative musical experience for the audience.

“They combine organization, songwriting, singing, choreography, costumes, and musical talent to become an extraordinary force on stage. Their diverse talents made them stand out and showcase their ability to work seamlessly together, creating memorable and enjoyable performances for the audience,” said Holmer.

These three are an incredibly versatile group: the instruments that they play during Band Women performances are different from each girl’s “main” instrument. There are 12 different instruments played between the three of them.

The Band Women’s ability to overcome whatever is thrown their way with grace is truly special. This year, Pierce noticed that the musical arrangements for La La Land’s “Someone in the Crowd” – which they planned to perform at the Talent Show – did not exist for their instrumentation. So she took matters into her own hands and composed the music for the group.

“I was like ‘Oh, there’s no arrangements, so I’ll just write one,’” said Pierce. “So I listened to the song, and when I heard a note, I would recognize it by ear and write it down.”

 

The group’s versatility and willingness to try new things and adapt to situations like this is a crucial component to their success.

Adapting to unfamiliar situations is exactly how this trio came to be. The formation of The Band Women can be accredited to an unlikely place: band class on a Google Meet.

According to Band Director Mrs. Janene Kessler, trying to teach band class in an online setting was “nuts.” Due to the lag time from the Google Meet, each musician had to keep their computer muted. Kessler would play a recording to the class and have each musician play along at home.

“We could see the students playing, but we couldn’t hear them. We were just hoping that they were following along,” said Kessler.

Kyricou, Pierce, and Morris didn’t even hear one another play their instruments until the last week of freshman year when the band performed an outdoor concert. Naturally, there were gaps in each performer’s skillsets after a year and a half of COVID-related inconsistencies.

“Having to play instruments online, they started at a disadvantage freshman year. But, they are so committed to music and are so passionate about what they wanted to do that they were able to overcome that,” said Kessler. “[Band online] was horrible, it was so difficult to get to know people and I think that that is what makes The Band Women so special, that these three came from that, that is what made them want to do something special.”

The three acknowledge that much of their determination and perseverance through challenges can be attributed to the obstacles they faced due to COVID-19.

When they entered their freshman year, many students who played instruments in middle school chose not to continue playing, leaving a huge gap in various band positions that needed to be filled.

Morris (left) Pierce (front) and Kyriacou (right) performing Billie Jean. Photo courtesy of Taylor Ross.

“It has felt like that gap has been catching up with us throughout high school,” said Kyriacou. “It is difficult in some ways, but what it allowed us to do was really grow in our own respects because Mrs. Kessler encouraged us to pick up instruments to fill these positions.”

Because of this gap – both in skill and in attendance- the three have embraced leadership roles throughout their time in band; outside of Band Women performances, they work together to facilitate the functions of the band on a day-to-day basis.

Notably, Pierce serves as the Drum Major, Morris is the Band Co-President, and Kyriacou serves as the High Brass section leader. The three have also taken on leadership roles in the Jazz Band, Marching Band, and various holiday music groups, among many other musical classes and groups. The three co-led the Talent Show Pit Band while simultaneously performing their Band Women act.

Their collective strengths transform them into a supergroup, unlike any other act I’ve enjoyed working with or watching on the Talent Show stage.

— Mr. Corey Holmer

Their ability to serve as leaders within the schools’ musical community while also performing at a high-level is admired by many fellow student musicians and staff members.

“The Band Women have always been super supportive of all the other groups in the Talent Show and are always hyping everyone up before they perform. This has always really helped all the underclassmen and other performers feel more comfortable and want to do the same. They really make Talent Show a positive and fun environment,” said Talent Show Student Director Georgia Sottosanto – Sorenson.

Because the three stepped up to fill these various roles early on in their high school career, they leaned on each other for support. This is what allowed The Band Women to become such close friends and compatible performers.

“They are such good friends. That is one of the things that makes music special, is the people you make it with. That comes through in the energy of their performance, it is really palpable how much fun they are having when they are playing,” said Kessler.

The way that their different personalities and strengths come together seamlessly to form a cohesive group is evident in their performances.

Pierce (left) and Kyriacou (right) rehearsing. Photo courtesy of Taylor Ross.

“We have such a good balance between the three of us,” said Morris. “Meghan [Pierce] is our organizer. She is our leader. She is our Regina George. She tells us what to do, when to do it, she gets us there. She is the reason we are able to perform.”

While Pierce deals with the more technical side of the Band Women’s performances, Morris brings out the group’s social side.

“Avery [Morris] is the social butterfly out of the three of us. She is the person that checks in, if we want to talk to somebody, we know we can always reach out to Avery. If somebody comes up and asks us how we are doing, it is always Avery that’s saying “we’re great and this is what is going on with us.” She’s very good at communicating,” said Pierce.

The girls’ differences bring out the best in one another, allowing them to grow and develop as a trio, both musically and as individuals.

“Maria [Kyriacou] is our little ball of energy. The first time we went on stage to perform, we were so dry and boring, nobody wanted to watch us. Then, the second time we went on and Maria [Kyriacou] said ‘maybe we don’t necessarily need to focus our notes, maybe we just need to perform.” Her energy transfers to me and Meghan [Pierce] so we are really able to work as a team,” said Morris.

Kyriacou, Morris, and Pierce recognize that The Band Women is much more than a musical group. Being a part of The Band Women has allowed each girl to embrace leadership in ways that translate to other parts of their lives and has allowed them to form a community. Kyriacou notes that “the leadership we get from band has translated into every activity we do.”

The Band Women has also served as a creative outlet for the three. Pierce knew that she would be in a band from a young age: she started playing the piano at age five and comes from a music-oriented family, but never knew where music could take her until she became a part of The Band Women.

“I’ve always been in that musical space but was never able to make it my own until the Band Women because I never understood the importance that music has when it relates to community,” said Pierce. “Band Women has been a way to connect with people that I care about but also to expand my thoughts about music to something aside from the rules of classical music.”

Above all, hence the name, “The Band Women,” the three want to spread the message that girls can be influential in the musical world.

“We thought it was important to have women’s voices in the musical sphere, in that role, because a lot of times those roles are filled by men, and then it feels male dominated. We wanted to come into that space and bring our female energy,” said Morris.

The three plan to continue pursuing their instruments post-high school. Pierce will be majoring in Oboe Performance at the University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign, and has auditioned to be a part of the Marching Illini, UIUC’s marching band. Kyriacou plans to continue the trumpet in the marching band or pep band at the University of Virginia. And Morris plans to continue to play multiple instruments at Cornell University, whether that be in the marching band or as part of the wind ensemble.

The Band Women’s legacy on the LFHS music department is one that is admired by many and one that many more will continue to look up to.

“If one little girl was sitting in the Talent Show audience, saw us playing instruments, and was like ‘I could play the saxophone or the trumpet one day’ or any other male-dominated instruments, that is a huge win,” said Kyriacou. “And if she makes an impact at LFHS 12 years from now, I’ll be so happy.”

*The Band Women would like to give a huge thank you to Fleury Robbins, Nora Sharman, and Niki Singh for playing with them in the past two Talent Shows. Robbins played the drums, Singh played the keys, and Sharman played the bass and piano.*

This story was originally published on The Forest Scout on May 9, 2024.