Director of The Spirit of Stony Brook Justin Stolarik on stage during the 2022 Spring Concert. The fourth annual Spirit of Stony Brook Spring Concert was held in the Island Federal Credit Union on April 22. KARALINE TALTY/THE STATESMAN

The fourth annual Spirit of Stony Brook Spring Concert took place on Friday, April 22. While the Staller Steps and Academic Mall were alive during the day for Earth Day festivities, after sunset the Island Federal Credit Union came to life. 

Excitement buzzed in the air. The audience beamed with anticipation for the show to come. Decked out in red and black, the band harmonized to create a beautiful synthesis of sounds.

“The band has a great grasp of musicality, musicianship, performance and entertainment, and has been expertly working together to accomplish those goals,” Justin R. Stolarik, director of The Spirit of Stony Brook, said.

The band members’ perseverance through hardships — such as the pandemic and a flood at the start of the school year — are testaments to their character.

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“I know a lot of the band members, and they’re such good students and really care about Stony Brook. They’re a solid group and I couldn’t be more proud of their talent,” Rick Gatteau, vice president of student affairs, commented.

The concert started with a video of Stolarik making the commute from New York City to Stony Brook. Wearing a white suit, he rode into the room on a Wolf Ride bike illuminated by colored lights. 

In order to get the audience energized, the first number was the “Victory Song.” The crowd was encouraged to jump up and shout “Stony Brook Seawolves! Go! Fight! Win!” This was followed by some tunes from their halftime show that were celebrating the band’s 15th anniversary. 

Now sporting a sparkly red suit jacket, Stolarik introduced a sousaphone version of “Sir Duke” called “Sir Sousa.” Then the 25th anniversary of the musical “Rent” was commemorated by playing some iconic songs. 

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This was Gatteau’s favorite part of the show.

“I’m a big fan of Broadway so I did videotape when they were playing ‘Seasons of Love’ from Rent, one of my favorite all-time songs,” he said. 

Stephen Sondheim and Chick Corea, both of whom passed away last year, were remembered by the band playing some of their iconic songs. “Latin Fire” included fierce and festive tunes, making the atmosphere lively and raising spirits. 

In the second half of the show, The Spirit of Stony Brook played their favorites: “In the Stone,” “Spinning Wheel,” “Chameleon,” “Boogie Wonderland” and “Children of Sanchez.”

Many students were looking forward to the Nintendo Switch OLED giveaway. Wolfie picked a student’s name out of a hat. Overjoyed, the winner made her way to the stage to claim her prize. This was followed by the song “Hey! Baby” performed by the band.

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The band got out of their seats to perform the next song, “The Chicken Dance.” This part was silly and a great way to forget about upcoming finals. Stolarik tried to beat the world record for the fastest chicken dance as the band sped up the song. 

The fifth part featured the classic song “Tequila,” in which everyone knew the lyric, “Tequila!” Another classic song was played, ”Sweet Caroline,” and everyone sang along.

In order to honor veterans, there was a salute to military members in the audience, for which the audience  stood. Different anthems were played for the different military branches.

The concert ended with the Songs of Stony Brook, including “Sandy Shore,” the alma mater. The band members once again got up to their feet, allowing for a strong and lively ending.

A special treat at this year’s concert was JB Gnonlonfoun, director of VOLTA West African Dance and Drumming Ensemble. He was featured both singing “JB’s African Blues” and performing with the Stony Brook Drumline. 

“That was amazing because I hadn’t seen that beforehand,” Nick Manzella, drum major and trombone player for The Spirit of Stony Brook, said. “And none of us really had. So that was a great performance from him,” 

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The concert featured a performance from twirler Danielle LaFurno, whose batons swirled with rainbow LEDs. Additionally, the Stony Brook Color Guard and Stony Brook Spirit Squad made appearances. Even everyone’s favorite seawolf, Wolfie, made an appearance.

In his speech, Stolarik praised the band’s hard work and progress over the past eight months. He said that each year the band is different because they lose and gain members. This is band number 16, and Stolarik expects band number 17 to be another great group of people. 

Through the music, everyone’s different personalities really shone through. 

“What we saw that night was a stage full of diamonds,” Stolarik said.

The turnout this year was impressive considering rises in COVID-19 cases. While the mask mandate has been lifted, many still have anxiety about going to large gatherings. Stolarik stated that 975 tickets were sold but the actual number of attendees is unclear. 

“I really hope this can become an annual campus tradition that people show up to just celebrate the end of the year concert,” Stolarik said.

It was a great way to end the year. The band is able to look forward to this spring concert instead of ending in March with the football season. Their family, alumni and Stony Brook peers also can look forward to this in the years to come. 

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Manzella, a graduating senior, spoke about his thoughts that night. He has been with the band during the entirety of his four years here, and has been playing trombone since middle school. As a math and physics major, he chose to also participate heavily in the band as “an outlet for music and an outlet to be social.” He refers to the band as a “big family,” with 70 new members out of the 100 total.

Commenting on Stolarik, Manzella said, “He’s instrumental to the program, pun intended. He’s really, really the mastermind behind all of this. He pushes all of us to be better.”

“I am so tired. Which means I think we had a great night,” Stolarik said, showing that all involved really put their all into living up to the name, “Spirit of Stony Brook.” 

While their repertoire of tunes includes about 100 songs, they featured over 50 that night. We can’t wait to see what is in store for next year for the Spirit of Stony Brook!

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