Band and Strings Groups’ Performances Judged “Highest level of artistry”
By Kristen Wilson for the Music Advocacy Group (MAG)
The results are in! And we have some great news and some not-so-great news. The great news is that both the High School Strings and High School Band students received “1” or “Superior” ratings at the San Juan Music Educators Association (SJMEA) contest for high school musicians at Bellingham High School on Saturday, January 26. A superior rating, according to the SJMEA guidelines, is given to “a performance at the highest level of artistry and technical proficiency that can expected of a high school student.”
Not only that, the High School Band, playing under the name “Orcas Wind Ensemble” was awarded FIRST place among all large ensembles competing at the contest. That means, the Orcas students were judged more accomplished than ensembles from much larger schools in Bellingham, Oak Harbor, Mt. Vernon and a group of other communities in our region. “This is probably the equivalent,” said Martin Lund, Band Director, “of watching the Viking football team go to Bellingham High and walk away with a win.” It should also be pointed out that this is the first year in recent memory that the High School Band has participated in a regional music contest.
Which brings us to the not-so-great news. Ordinarily, coming in first in our region would qualify our ensemble to compete with other regional winners at the state contest later this spring. However, neither the Orcas Band nor the Orcas Strings is eligible to compete at the state contest because their ensembles include a few students from lower grades, and according to SJMEA regulations all students must be in grades 9 to 12. But this news is not stopping the Orcas musicians from celebrating.
“We have two 8th grade students and one 6th grader in our strings group who are capable of playing at the High School level,” said Pamela Wright, Music Director for High School Strings. “And we knew, going in, we would be ineligible to go to state because of including our advanced younger musicians in the group. So we asked ourselves – do we want the chance to go to state, or do we want to perform as a group? And our students did not hesitate when they said they wanted everyone there from our class,” added Wright. “I am so proud of our strings.”
The Orcas Island Strings performed the first two movements of Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.” The judge’s first comment after hearing the performance was, “Whenever I see this piece on a competition list to be played, I flinch, because it requires such a high level of playing – but you played it beautifully!”
The Orcas Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Martin Lund, played “Frontier Suite in C Lydian,” a composition of Lund’s. From the opening measures of their performance, it was clear by the smile on the judge’s face, and her tapping toes, that this was going to go well. The judge made very favorable comments about the group’s refreshing sound, their balance and the composition. “My goal heading into this contest was to give the kids a chance to play, work hard, and participate in a situation that allowed them to see where they stand in relation to students from other school music programs. . . nothing more,” said Lund. “Getting picked for state? Not bad for their first time, and I am very proud of all the kids.” Students in both the High School Strings and High School Band get up early every Monday through Friday to get to school by 7:20 a.m. to rehearse for an hour before school starts.
In addition to the large ensembles, Orcas High School had several soloists competing. The judge said cellist Anthony Kaskurs performance of Bach’s “Suite #1: Prelude in G Major” was “super musical.” Violinist Michael Harlow played the 3rd movement of the Seitz Concerto #2 and the judge commented on his “beautiful tone” and “beautiful vibrato.”Violist Brigid Ehrmantraut played “Pensiero” by Frank Bridge and the judge applauded Ehrmantraut’s expression and vibrato.
It should be mentioned that both large ensembles are required to perform without a conductor. “For groups of this size to perform well without a conductor is quite a feat in itself,” said Lund. “They represent the ideal in team effort,” added Wright, “because you have to be able to play well together as a team to succeed.”
One of the officials of the contest said to Lund, “It’s just a testament to how hard you and Pamela are working with those kids that they did so well and impressed the judges!”
The members of the Orcas Winds who competed in Bellingham include: Claire Bishop-Martin, Eric Eagan, Holden Griskey-Watson, Josephine Gudgell, Mikaela Hansen, Taj Howe, Devon Mann, Adelaine Newcombe, Kaya Osborn, Maggie Paige, Kahana Pietsch, Dylan Thompson, and Rhys Thompson.
The members of Orcas High School Strings who competed in Bellingham include: Christian Bailey, Julia Bailey, Emilia Carter, Brigid Ehrmantraut, Michael Harlow, Anthony Kaskurs, Wylie Kau, Juliette Mann, Enzo Thixton, Zach Waage and Paris Wilson.