Orchestra Students Perform at Solo Festival

Sophia Belshe, Staff Writer

The orchestra room was filled with the sounds of nervous students perfecting solos, warming up, tuning, and chatting as they prepared to perform for a judge and five of their peers. Students flowed in and out as groups finished and a new wave of kids arrived and added to the slightly hectic atmosphere of the orchestra room last Saturday morning.

The orchestra solo festival is an annual, required event for all students in orchestra. It entails selecting a solo at least two minutes long, meticulously preparing that solo, and then performing for a judge and a small group of other students.

Students have had since around winter break to prepare their solos on their own or with a private teacher. All the work had to be done outside of school as very little class time was allotted to prepare for this event.

On the day of the festival, students had a set playing time anywhere from nine to noon on Saturday morning when they were expected to report to the orchestra room, dressed in their most professional clothes, ready to perform and represent South. Students were scheduled in groups of six to perform for a judge and receive a score from one to five, one being the highest score a player could achieve.

“It was scary, but it was a little less so because I knew all the people in there. They’re my buds,” freshman cellist Cassandra Awad said.

After a student is finished with their solo, the judge acts as a clinician for 5 to 10 minutes, giving the student notes, critiques and compliments. The group of six listens to the notes and solos of all the other students in their group in order to help students hear as many tips and tricks from the professional judges as possible. It’s structured much like a master class in that regard.

“The judge helps with mistakes that you made and that helped a lot. It was practice for playing in front of people and we got somebody else’s help besides Mr. Wiebe, like it was a different point of view,” Awad said.

Students were also required by orchestra director Jonathan Wiebe to memorize their solo, although they could use music on the day of the festival, and play it in class as practice for the event. He does this every year to ensure that students put an adequate amount of effort into preparing their solos. If a student memorizes a piece, he knows that they really spent time working on it.

“I had to practice each section of the song over and over again and then [Wiebe] told me things I should work on and then I practiced those things,” Awad said.

Students who received a one at this festival have the opportunity to move on to the regional solo festival later in the year if they so desire and then onto the state festival if they perform well.