Riverside bands celebrate an ‘Unwavering Heart’
Riverside high and middle school band students celebrated a six-month effort to honor one of their own when they premiered “Unwavering Heart” during last week’s combined concert.
The composition was commissioned by the bands in May as a tribute to flutist Bella Muntean, who passed away in April after battling cancer.
“She was the absolute epitome of a band student, and we wanted to make sure that her memory lived on,” said Riverside High band director Kris Bence.
Joshua Hinkel, of River Bluff High School in Columbia, composed the score to represent Bella’s positivity. Guided by Bence, he created a piece that featured uplifting rhythms surrounding a somber ballad interlude, emphasizing Bella’s upbeat personality through her illness.
“I couldn’t find a better way in my mind of memorializing a great person. There are almost 90 young musicians up on this stage and all of them are just like Bella. They really love music, love what they do, and have fun while they do it,” Bence said.
Bella’s private flute teacher of two years, Wendy Smith, performed the piece with the band.
“I feel so privileged to be able to represent her. She is such a special spirit. To be able to play in her place was just amazing. I enjoyed it so much,” Smith said.
Bence and Riverside Middle band director Kevin Styles presented Bella’s parents with a framed copy of the first page of the score. The gift read: “Commissioned in honor of Bella by the Riverside High School and Riverside Middle School band programs, this piece of music shall embody the beauty and musical spirit of an incredible young musician.”
Brenda Muntean thanked the bands, teachers, composer, and all of those who contributed to the Go Fund Me page that supported the commission for her daughter.
“It’s amazing that they wanted to preserve her legacy through this beautiful commemoration. We’re so grateful,” she said.
Brenda shared Bella’s story with the audience.
“Bella had 10s of thousands of followers on Instagram…They didn’t follow Bella because of her amazing doll photography, they followed Bella because of her unwavering faith and her unwavering heart. She taught them the true meaning of hope–that God is love and in love there is always hope.”
“We really enjoyed performing the Bella piece. I think the composer captured her personality and her journey with her illness,” Styles said. “It was a great tribute to Bella and we were glad that we could share that moment with her family and friends.”
The next step for the score will be final editing by the composer before possibly publishing nationally for purchase by other bands.
“The end goal is to have program notes that really tell the story of who Bella was and why we wrote the piece and why we named it ‘Unwavering Heart,’” Bence said.
“The people in the audience really connected, and we had a full house tonight…This one I’m going to remember for a long time.”
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