All posts by Grace Ehlert

Orchestra recruits new members

    With a new school year beginning, the high school orchestra is off to a quick start.

    On Sept. 11, just two weeks after the school year started, the orchestra performed a recruitment concert for the fifth graders at Lakeview. The orchestra did the recruitment concert to form the fifth grade orchestra.

    The orchestra spent the first two weeks giving their all to get the songs performance ready. They spent every day  perfecting the songs for the concert.

    They played “I’m Shipping up to Boston,” “Viva la Vida” and  “The Avengers.”

    They had student announcers that announced each song. The section leaders for each section of the orchestra played a piece so the students could hear what the instruments sounded like. They also gave a small description of the instruments.

    After the orchestra played, the fifth graders were able to try each instrument if they wanted to. The students showed the students the basics of how to play so they could decide if they wanted to join orchestra.

    The students are now working on music for their concert on Oct 7. At this concert they will play songs from the recruitment concert as well as new songs.

Orchestra attends earns superior rating at Music in the Parks competition

The orchestra had an exciting end to a great school year.

On Sat., May 23 the orchestra attended the Music in the Parks Competition at Perkins High School.

The middle school orchestra previously attended the competition, but this was the first year that the high school went.

Music in the Parks is a month long event at Cedar Point and has competitors from several states where bands, choirs and string orchestras compete.

The competition has two classes, class A and class AA at the middle school and high school levels. Class A consists of schools which have 700 or less students and Class AA has more than 700.

The Directors pick two songs which demonstrates the groups’ strengths. One song typically has a faster tempo than the other. The high school director, Sarah Behal, chose “Declarations” and “Odessa” for the orchestra.

After the orchestra performed at Perkins High School they went to Cedar Point for the rest of the day. At Cedar Point, the orchestra attended an awards ceremony. The orchestra received first place with a superior rating in class AA. The orchestra also received the overall trophy for the string orchestras at the event. The overall trophy means they were the best scoring orchestra of the day.

Earlier in the year, the orchestra attending the state contest received a superior rating. That was the first superior at a state contest in five years. This school year, the orchestra received two superior ratings. The orchestra is looking forward to continuing working to better the performance of the group and receive more superior ratings at competitions.

HAPPY holds annual Kindness Week – Wednesday

The last week of April was a busy time–juniors took the ACT, sophomores and freshmen took the ACT Aspire tests. This week also was Happy’s annual Kindness Week.

HAPPY is a club at the high school that promotes anti-bullying, good relationships, suicide and other topics. They bring in the guest speaker at the beginning of the year. The big activity they plan every year is Kindness Week. This year’s Kindness Week took place Monday April, 27 through Friday May 1. HAPPY has been planning this event since February.

Wednesday was “Chain Reaction DSC_0091Day” and RESPECT training. The chain reaction involved necklaces that encouraged the students to do or say something kind. Students then passed the beads to someone else throughout the day. The club also had Missy McClain, who is the RESPECT Coordinator from Akron Children’s Hospital, speak during the lunch periods. Her topic for the day was “Happily Ever After…5 Keys to a Healthy Relationships.” Teachers could bring their classes or send study hall students during the periods to the library and hear the presentation.

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.