Official Student Newspaper of Henry M. Gunn High School

The Oracle

Official Student Newspaper of Henry M. Gunn High School

The Oracle

Official Student Newspaper of Henry M. Gunn High School

The Oracle

Gunn Chamber Orchestra takes home wins in New York

Photo+courtesy+of+Tiffany+Ou-Ponticelli
Photo courtesy of Tiffany Ou-Ponticelli

From Feb. 29 to Mar. 4, Gunn’s Chamber Orchestra traveled to New York City to compete in the Orchestra Cup, a national orchestra competition held in Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. The group won the overall championship, as well as individual awards. 

Gunn’s Chamber Orchestra is a 26-person audition-based honors orchestra taught by Sandra Lewis and Tiffany Ou-Ponticelli.

According to Ou-Ponticelli, the Orchestra Cup attracts hundreds of high school orchestras each year — this year, competitors came from California, South Carolina and Texas, among other states. Orchestras come both to compete and to learn from experts: All adjudicators are string professors at universities or musicians in professional ensembles, and they give competitors constructive comments. This year, Gunn’s Chamber Orchestra also received a clinic with NYU professor Stephanie Baer. 

Beyond winning the Orchestra Cup, Gunn’s Chamber Orchestra won other awards and accolades in the competition, including “Most Original Selection” as well as “Best High Strings Soloist” (violinist junior Ian Cheung) and “Best Low Strings Soloist” (cellist sophomore Brandon Kang). Ou-Ponticelli believes that hard work and dedication were the driving factors behind the group’s success.

“When we plan for a trip like this, we start to plan from the beginning of the year, so some of the repertoire we had learned early in the fall so that it would have time to mature,” Ou-Ponticelli said. “(Sandra) Lewis and I were super proud of their performance and how the students came together musically to present each piece where each one was very different from the previous one, and we did a great job displaying what each composer would have wanted.”

Violinist junior Seongju Kim echoed Ou-Ponticelli’s thoughts.

Photo courtesy of Tiffany Ou-Ponticelli

“We spent a lot of time rehearsing the pieces as well as choreographing, and also Zoomed with one of the composers,” Kim said. “Even though we were competing against other schools, we still got to meet other students and talk with them.”

Although the main objective of the trip was to compete at the festival, the orchestra students also toured different parts of New York City, including Central Park, Top of the Rock and the Statue of Liberty. To Ou-Ponticelli, Kim and Kang, this exploration was one of the best parts of the entire experience.

“(There) was definitely very good food,” Kang said. “We watched ‘Wicked’ and ‘The Lion King,’ and they were truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And also, after the competition we went on a cruise with the other competitors. It was really nice to meet people from different parts of the world.”

Nevertheless, the students encountered some obstacles. Kim mentioned instances of unfriendly encounters in New York City. 

“Some of us were approached by strangers who tried to get our money, but thankfully we handled it well and were safe,” Kim said.

Despite setbacks like these, Ou-Ponticelli believed the trip went well overall.

“The true reality is, our trip was awesome,” Ou-Ponticelli said. “We did have a one-hour delay on the flight, but our students were great and extremely well behaved. It’s also always a little bit nerve-wracking to travel with our instruments, and the important part was we were able to bring all six cellos with no damage.”

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About the Contributor
Roy Lao, Reporter
Sophomore Roy Lao is a reporter for The Oracle. If not at school or at diving practice, he's speedrunning homework or talking with friends.
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