Orchestra receives Superior rating at state competition

The last weekend of February was an exciting time for the high school orchestra. They participated in the Ohio Music Education Association large group contest.

The orchestra has been going to the contest for around 20 years, and now, it is a tradition. The previous director, Frances Hamilton, started taking the orchestra to the contest, but they did not go last year because they went to New York City for a competition.

At the beginning of the school year, the orchestra members took to a new director, Sarah Behal. She kept the tradition of state contest going.

The orchestra attended the contest at Hudson High School on Sat., Feb. 28. The students and director believed that the event at Hudson was well organized.

“A lot goes into arranging and organizing such a large event, and [the orchestra is] very grateful for the hard work the staff at Hudson put in,” Behal said.

The directors of each high school orchestra must pick pieces from a required list of music. The music is organized into three classes: A, B and C. Class A is the hardest music and class C is the easiest music to play. The Stow orchestra performed in class B. Behal choose “Eureka!” by Keith Sharp, “Romantic Etude” (Etude Op. 10 No.3) by Frederic Chopin arranged by Robert Longfield and “Declarations” by Jeffrey S. Bishop. The three pieces had a unique character that showcased the different playing styles of the orchestra.

“Playing a variety of styles shows the judges that the orchestra is dynamic and able to play whatever is thrown at them rather than being limited,” Behal said.

The three pieces of music took a little under two months to prepare. The orchestra also practiced sight reading during class. Sight reading is when students look at a piece for the first time and then try to play the piece. It is one of the determining factors of the contest and is a skill the students need to continue to practice.

At the contest, the piece the orchestra had to sight read was “Odessa” by David Bobrowitz. The students had four minutes to look at the piece for the first time. Behal then had four minutes to discuss the piece with the group. During the combined eight minutes, the students were not permitted to play at all. They were not allowed to talk except for questions to their stand partners; however, they were allowed to tap or clap out rhythms and silently finger their part without actually playing. If they were to do any of the things not allowed, they would be disqualified from the contest.

The orchestra received a rating of I at the contest.  The contest runs on a I to V rating scale, with V being the lowest and I being the highest. The I is the superior rating and is reserved for the exceptional performances. In the past five years, the orchestra has received a rating of II in class B; however, in the past 15 years, the orchestra has gotten a handful of Superior ratings in both class B and C,  and the rest were either ratings of II or III. Going into the contest the orchestra was trying to break the five-year drought of I ratings, and they achieved that.

The orchestra had some setbacks in trying to get the music prepared to have a great performance. Their class time to prepare was limited because of snow days, two-hour delays and freshman testing the week before the contest. Even though class time was limited, the students and the director think they did an excellent job at the contest.

“I think the orchestra did really well,” sophomore Amber Vogal said.

They think that they did really well as a group and individually at the contest and are happy with the rating they got.

“I put all I had into the competition, so I believe I did well,” sophomore Nicole Stamper said.

The orchestra was able to read the comments the three judges and the sight reading judge wrote during the contest. There are some things the orchestra wants to work on in the coming months. Some will be easy to fix, and others will take longer.

A couple of things the students want to work on are posture and playing position as well as how in tune the group is. As the group gets more accurate in their music, Behal wants to incorporate vibrato. Vibrato would help make the sound of the group warmer and more mature. Behal also would like the students to become more independent in recognizing when they have messed something up, mark it in their music and then wait for her to point it out to them.

The students also recognized some other things they want to work on, which includes taking their time so they do not speed up while playing and recognizing the key in which a piece is written in.

“The vibrato should be improved for me and recognizing the key,” sophomore Gwen Goebelt said.

The orchestra is excited about their rating and is looking forward to applying the comments the judges made. The orchestra is now preparing for their last concert of the year which will take place on Mon. May 4.

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