|Kristoffer and Emily warm up before rehearsal starts.
It’s 8:55 am on April 14th.
While most students are home sleeping on a Saturday morning, Kristoffer Caine and Emily Dunn are wide awake, tuning their instruments in preparation for rehearsal to begin. The moment Professor Emeritus, Dean Angeles, walks onto the podium, the music stops and all talking ceases. He instructs the principle members of each section of the orchestra to lead the members in tuning their instruments. Once that is done, he introduces himself and informs them his latest direction was of the New York State All-State Orchestra.
Then practice begins.
This group of orchestra members was comprised of high school students ages 15 – 18. Students of various ethnic backgrounds and from all over the state converged at Sprayberry High School in Marietta, Georgia, some from as far away as Savannah.
This gathering was the first time a Statewide Honor Orchestra was formed. The orchestra was made up of students who auditioned for the Georgia All-State Orchestra. It was not an easy road. First round auditions for the All-State Orchestra started back in late September, early October of 2011, and were held at Mundy’s Mill High School in Clayton County. Hundreds of students from across the state auditioned. The number decreased and competition for the available spots grew fiercer as second round auditions approached in February.
|Professor Emeritus, Dean Angeles, directs the orchestra.
The number of talented students vying for the positions must have been close, because for the first time, a Statewide Honor Orchestra was put together for students who did not make the cut for All-State Orchestra. These students are being recognized for their stellar playing abilities. As a result, they were offered the opportunity to come together for one day of practice, to socialize with their peers, and to perform for friends, family, and the community.
Parents arrived early Saturday at Sprayberry High School to drop off their kids. Some waited all day, while their son or daughter practiced, until it was time for the performance later that evening. For six hours, the kids practiced, taking two breaks for lunch and dinner, as well as short breathers to stretch their legs, and at times find their focus again, before returning for the intense practice the director put them through. Professor Emeritus, Dean Angeles has conducted the Loyola University Chamber and Symphony Orchestra as well as coordinated a comprehensive string program for the organization from 1980 to 2006. Most recently, he was inducted into the Southwestern College Fine Arts Hall of Fame in Winfield, Kansas in April, 2011.
|Minutes before taking the stage.
Clayton County had two students who were invited to participate in the All-State Honor Orchestra, and amazingly, both students are from the same school. Junior, Kristoffer Caine, and Freshman, Emily Dunn are both students of the Fine Arts Magnet Program at Mount Zion High School, under the direction of Krissy Davis. Both play the Bass. For both students, being selected for this orchestra was a major achievement. For Kristoffer, who made the first round for High School All-State Orchestra last year, but not the second, it was an accomplishment. Emily participated in the Middle School All-State Orchestra, last year, as well as High School All-State Honors this year, so for her, this is a glimpse of great things yet to come. Once during practice, the director paused to compliment the Bass section, saying they were by far one of the best he’s worked with in years. Never once did he have to work on any part of the music with them. He was impressed since they have the hardest instrument to play.
After six hours of practice on music most kids had only received five days in advance, they were ready to perform on stage.
Before a note was played, the director made this comment to audience: “To put an orchestra together in six hours…you don’t even do that with a professional orchestra. I am so very pleased with these young people for what they’ve done….I’m impressed.” The first piece played, was Serenade for Strings, by Edward Elgar, a three piece movement lasting ten minutes. When it was done, he turned around and said: “You have no idea how difficult that piece is. I have some of my university students in the Atlanta area that teach (and) played that piece, and rest assured, we had at least 6 weeks to put that together. These young people had six hours…It’s very impressive.”
Congratulations to Kristoffer Caine and Emily Dunn for representing the Fine Arts Magnet Program at Mount Zion High School and the Clayton County School System. Programs and opportunities like this are yet another example why music should be kept in our schools.
*Side note, I am so proud of my son and his musical accomplishments this year!*
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