Excellence In Orchestra

This year’s orchestra has enjoyed much success throughout its participation in the Florida Orchestra Association competitions at both the district and the state level. In order to qualify to play at the state level, an orchestra must perform exceedingly well at the district performance, receiving an average grade of ‘Superior’, the highest mark. The Upper School orchestra did just that at the district competition at Coral Reef Senior High School in Miami, Florida. They obtained not only superiors for their selected pieces from all three judges, but they also received a superior in the optional student conductor portion. This success paved the way for the group to be able to participate in the state level at all and even to aim for another superior rating, a lofty goal.

orchestraThe orchestra faced many challenges, including lack of experience from many members of the ensemble. Mr. Wicker, director of the orchestra and head of the music department for the upper school, said that “there are many strong players that excel on their respective instruments, but there are also some very inexperienced players that need to pick it up a few notches. However, even with this setback, the orchestra was still able to make the journey to Tampa, Florida to participate in the state competition. They played the same pieces that were performed at the district level:  Farandole by Georges Bizet (composer of the well-known opera, Carmen), A Quiet Music by Douglas E Wagner, and Russian Sailor’s Dance by Reinhold Gliere. The student conductor piece, Pavane for a Dead Princess by Faure received a superior mark at the competition. Florida that attended the competition in Tampa. After what felt like hours of waiting, Mr. Wicker finally received the envelope that contained their results. They performed beautifully and received the second-highest score of “Excellent” from the judges and received a “Superior” in the student conducting portion. Achieving an Excellent is difficult for a high school orchestra when almost half of the orchestra is less experienced. Even with all of the challenges faced, Mr. Wicker says that “they performed as well as they could. I am extremely happy with their performance. It was the best that they had ever played those pieces.”

The trip to states was a positive one, leaving many musicians excited for the promise of next year. Amelia Gregorio, sophomore and violinist, says that “the trip was an extremely fun one, from enjoying a night at a great restaurant to being able to perform on stage. I am excited and hope that we will be able to go next year.” The orchestra last went to the state competition two years ago, but the last time that the group received a superior was almost ten years ago. Olivia Bronzi, tenth grader and cellist, is hopeful for the coming years. “We had a great time this year and I hope that we are able to improve so that we will do even better next year.”

What, however, needs to be done in order for the orchestra to reach new heights? Mr. Wicker plans to limit the number of new players coming in and hold the group to higher standards regarding practice and ability in the coming year in order to bring the group’s overall skill up. Their personalities, though, are unmatched. He says that “this has been the finest group of young people I’ve ever been involved with” and is confident that they will rise to the challenge. When asked what’s next for the orchestra, Wicker said, “we’re going to go to the intergalactic orchestra competition and beat the Martians.” The upper school orchestra is truly out of this world.