With upcoming Palladium performance, learn more about We Have All Music (WHAM)

Nora Mariano

We Have All Music (WHAM) is a nonprofit group started by a group of students at this school in September of 2021. According to founder and senior Brayden Meng, it began because of a love of music and a want for more community performances. 

Meng said, “Our mission is to give high school musicians opportunities outside of school to perform in professional venues.”

Emma Chen (left), We Have All Music (WHAM) member and senior and Hilary Yang (right), WHAM member and freshman, practice violin at their practice on Aug. 28, 2022. The student-run orchestra practiced to prepare for their performance at the Palladium which will take place on Sept. 28, 2022. (Isaac Hsu)

WHAM started small but now has a full orchestra of around 70 people. Noah Kim, WHAM executive and senior, said WHAM’s main form of outreach is through social media. 

“Anyone with even a little previous experience in ensembles who can commit the time to practice and rehearse music is welcome to join,” Kim said.

This approach is different from how orchestras at this school host auditions and teach classes. Conductor and senior Ishaan Singh said the school orchestra has a lot of people who have been playing music their entire lives, but WHAM is different. 

“We get people that have just been learning music on their own for a while and they’re good at their instrument but they don’t play it in school. We have a diverse set of people,” Singh said.

“We Have All Music” is an appropriate name according to its members because they do indeed have all music. Many orchestras focus on classical music, but WHAM has performed classical, pop, rock and electronic music. WHAM has even incorporated beatboxing and singing into their sets. Singh said WHAM also performs lesser-known music from non-European composers. According to Meng, this practice started because of the different focuses of the original WHAM members.

“I thought that it would bring more diversity and variety to the specific needs of every event we do if we are able to encompass all types of music,” Meng said.

Unlike the school orchestra, WHAM is a student-run organization that exists outside of the school, so there is no adult advisor or teacher. The musicians are all high school students, which allows WHAM more creative freedom.

WHAM members even compose their own music. This began as a hobby Singh said, but then became official so WHAM could create original compositions to play at the Palladium to avoid copyright infringement.

Singh said aside from creating original compositions that performers play, they also interpret the piece during rehearsals.

He said, “It’s a way we’re different from other orchestras, we’re changing the piece and actually interpreting it as we play.”

Instead of hosting performances, WHAM goes out into the community. Singh talks about an experience he had at the grand re-opening of the Westfield Library. 

“It was just four of us that went to it, but it was really fun because there was this really nice family with some 3-year-olds that came to the performance. And the 3-year-olds came up and started playing the instruments as well and it was really nice,” Singh said. “It’s about seeing the joy that music can bring to others in a very interactive environment.”

Ashlyn Walker, We Have All Music (WHAM) member and junior, practices cello at WHAM practice on Aug. 28, 2022. WHAM, a student run band, practiced in order to prepare for their performance at the Palladium which will take place on Sept. 28, 2022. The orchestra has performed multiple different types of songs including classical, pop, rock and electronic music. (Isaac Hsu)

WHAM is sponsored by the International Association of Chinese Americans (IACA) and will be the first student-run orchestra to perform at the Palladium on Sept. 28.

Margaret Hite, Associate Director of Orchestras, said,  “I have only heard one of WHAM’s rehearsals so far, but I was so impressed with the work they are doing. The compositions are interesting and exciting. Everyone is working hard to put together a performance later this month.”

Meng and Singh said they hope to expand WHAM to be a nation-wide nonprofit. Their goal is to have WHAM orchestras across America, teaching students about all kinds of music. 

Singh said, “Most of our WHAM leaders are seniors now, we want to make a national organization that focuses on spreading music in small communities. The goal would be to effectively expand WHAM to be thousands of people across the nation. Because we’ll all be at different colleges and be spread out so it’s an opportunity to expand it.” 

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