Written By: Chaewon Lee
For the first time in school history, the orchestra will be performing at the Annual Midwest Band and Orchestra Conference. The orchestra is one of just four string orchestras from all 50 states invited to the conference and the first orchestra from California to attend the event in ten years. The highly selective event, taking place in Chicago this December, will feature students and professional musicians from all over the world.
The Midwest Conference will also mark the first time the orchestra has attended a national music event. “I’m excited to hear other orchestras outside of the Bay Area, because I’ve only heard school orchestras from here,” co-concertmaster junior Kyoko Inagawa said.
According to orchestra director Sandra Lewis, acceptance to the conference stood as a significant milestone for the music department. Last year, Lewis had put down attending the Midwest conference as one of her goals for in the Visual and Performing Arts department’s five-year plan.
Previously, the orchestra had been rejected three times after going through a rigorous audition process. However, last May, Lewis and her students learned that they had finally made the cut to perform. “Every year we submitted an application/recording, we got better and better because there’s an intensity behind auditioning for [such a prestigious event],” band director Todd Summers said.
According to Summers, the group is practicing at a much more intense pace than they have done in previous years due to time constraints. “Normally, you hope that your group peaks at the end of the year with their best performance, but we need the students to peak in December with an end-of-the-year level performance, which is half the time amount of time [they usually have]” he said. “But we are excited to then see what we can accomplish during second semester. How far can we go musically?” According to Summers, the students are also practicing with a much more diverse repertoire than they are used to performing.
Even with the extra work required at the beginning of the school year in an effort to prepare for the clinic, the teachers and students are eager to prove their talents by the end of the semester. “The biggest excitement for me as teacher is just having the opportunity to show several thousand music educators the quality of student work that we have here at Gunn High School,” Summers said.
Inagawa is also looking forward to the invaluable learning opportunity that the experience will provide her and her fellow classmates. “You get to show off your orchestra [at the clinic], but you also get to listen to other orchestras and it helps you better yourself,” she said.
Even though the orchestra’s hour-long repertoire is filled with a wide variety of selections, Lewis feels that one piece in particular, a jazzy improvisation manuscript, truly showcases not only the orchestra’s
talent, but also its unique, bold side. “I’m excited for our string orchestra to play [the song] for the music educators and show them what it’s like to play pieces that are a little bit more outside of the normal string orchestra realm,” Lewis said. “That’s a huge achievement and a huge accomplishment for a group to able to go and present that.”
Lewis’s ultimate goal in preparing her students for the conference is to ensure that the students have the best experience that they possibly can at the conference. “I want them to be able to see what its like to work really hard on music and focus on their playing and to get music at a high level,” Lewis said.