Orchestra students prepare for competition
Orchestra students are preparing to express a more individual side of their instruments at the solo and small ensemble music festival at Mexico High School this Saturday. Students will compete to qualify to the state music festival, orchestra director Alison Schmidt said.
“There’s a lot of independence with preparing for it. All the work is on their own. A lot of them have private teachers, and for a few of them it’s completely after school,” Schmidt said. “We don’t spend class time preparing, but I have helped some of them, and others just work with each other after school.”
The amount of independent practice was a challenge freshman Ben Xu was more than ready to face. Xu will compete in both violin and piano solos. He will play Rachmaninoff’s “Etude Tableau Op. 33 No. 8” in G minor on the piano and “Sonata” in A Major on the violin.
“I’ve been preparing through lots and lots of practice,” Xu said. “When you get there, you only get one shot, so you don’t want to feel like you could’ve done better. I chose to [perform in both violin and piano] because I wanted to make the most out of my experience in Mexico.”
Xu hopes to make it to the state festival in April. To qualify, students will have to earn a score of one from judges, Schmidt said. The grading scale goes from a one being the highest score down to a five.
“I applaud the fact they have chosen this extra opportunity,” Schmidt said. “It’s not a requirement, but it’s really neat that they have chosen to do this extra step on their own.”
Story by Ben Kimchi
Band students play for self-improvement
Band competitions give students an opportunity to perform and compete in front of a panel of judges. The talent of band students will be on full display when they perform in Mexico, Mo. at the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) band festival Saturday.
At the event, band students will perform solo or with an ensemble. Students such as freshman Anthony Wu do both solo and ensemble.
“Solo is when you [are] alone playing a classical piece with one piano player called the accompanist. He or she provides you with harmony, but you alone are the star,” Wu said. “In [a] small ensemble, you only have a group of five or less instrumentalists, and you all play a piece together.”
Students do not practice for MSHSAA competitions alone. Assistant Band Director Josh Myers helps students in both solo and ensemble to improve their performing skills. He gives students guidance and offers his expertise when students ask for help with things, such as tempo or changing octaves.
“The solo and ensemble experience is important and allows students to have another opportunity to perform,” Myers said. “I just enjoy helping them in that process of learning and performing.”
Wu couldn’t decide whether he likes solo or ensemble performances better. For both types of performers, the pieces students play must come together perfectly in order for the individual or group to score well.
Senior trumpet player Jackson Dampier acknowledges the importance of practice and repetition when perfecting a solo performance.
“The most difficult part about solos is that you must prepare a lot more; it becomes a lot harder to sound good because you can’t just stop in the middle,” Dampier said. “The only way to improve your performance skills is by experience.”
Also a solo performer, junior Jordan Kuhnert echoes the sentiments of her peers by practicing at least an hour each day.
“I start off by playing [the piece] really slowly to make sure I can get all the rhythms and notes down,” Kuhnert said. “Then I start speeding up tempo, adding dynamics, musicality and nuance to make it more interesting and unique.”
Despite the heavy time commitment of practicing, students still find appreciation in the experiences that MSHSAA ensembles and solos bring.
“I love everything about these competitions,” Wu said. “It’s so much fun to prepare for them, play and perform. It gives me infinite satisfaction doing it.”
Story by Jared Geyer
Choir singers to perform in solo, small ensemble festival
On the first Saturday of spring break, while most students will be enjoying their new-found freedom, RBHS choir students will perform at the annual district solo and small ensemble festival at Mexico High School (MHS) Saturday.
Director Mike Pierson is excited to take 22 ensembles and 24 solos during his 27th year of going to the festival.
Small ensembles began preparing for the festival at the beginning of February, and many students have worked on solos with private vocal teachers for months. The small ensembles are usually comprised of three to eight students and the groups can be unisex or mixed.
Sophomore Jacob Jennings will go to the festival for his second time this year, where he will perform in a small ensemble as well as a solo.
“[Being in an ensemble is] fun because you’re with people who are your age,” Jennings said. “Pierson pairs you with people that, like, go with your voice and are compatible with each other and work well, so that’s easier.”
Likewise, sophomore Natalie Robuck, is going to the festival for a second time this year having done a vocal solo, violin solo and small ensemble last year. Robuck has sung in choirs since she was in elementary school, so she is no stranger to performing in front of audiences. Even so, there was a certain level of apprehension she felt before her first time going to district competition.
“The hardest part. . . was probably [the] nerves right before,” Robuck said. “I hadn’t really experienced anything like it before my vocal solo. I got a little nervous right before it, and it kind of threw off my performance a little bit.”
Senior Alex Schust has left his nerves far behind as a veteran performer. He said he enjoys the choral music he gets to sing for districts and spending the day at MHS with his friends. For his last year, he will perform as part of a quartet and a double quartet. The first time he went, he found performing in a small ensemble intimidating, but after three years he highly recommends the experience.
“It’s really easy to be put off by the idea of performance because it’s a pretty scary thing, especially for people who have never done it before,” Schust said. “Performing when there’s 40 other people on stage is not such a big deal for most people I think, but performing when there’s only seven or eight other people in the room is a very different beast.”
Story by Amanda Kurukulasuriya