The first few weeks of school were filled with procedures, instructions, and lectures about the general information every person on campus needs to be aware of coming into this new year. Alongside this, however, community was shared for the first time, in a long time amongst our student body and can be observed especially in our orchestra classes! For returning players, the first day of class was met with smiles and laughter, and incoming freshmen were welcomed into the program with open arms. After going over locker assignments and the new guidelines for class, Mr. Collett led the orchestras through warmups and sight reading. Whether it had been months since students had picked up their instruments or days, the sounds of each orchestra filled the classroom again after 5 months of summer and quarantine! Even though this school year will look different than anything we’ve ever done, the music that will be worked on and played will stay the same and the connection between our students will continue to grow and strengthen. The tradition of the orchestra program at large is not to push away change, but to find kindredness through music and build lifelong skills as well as lifelong relationships; as everything around us variates, music remains the same, and that is the comfort in being able to play as a body of musicians.
Since the orchestras were established, our department has done nothing but grow. We have approximately 220 students that fill our four classes, and looking at where we are versus where we started is a huge encouragement that grows exponentially with every year that passes! Every school year, we, as a department, invest in the broadening and flourishing of our students' knowledge surrounding their instruments, as well as techniques and abilities to play. As this year of playing will run uniquely, due to the effects of covid-19, and with that in mind, we are consistently adjusting and adapting to make certain that our students’ experiences in orchestra are filled with learning and community building, regardless of what challenges we may face due to our rapidly changing world.
The first month of school has flown by, for both our teachers, and for our students. After the initial discussions over new regulations, our classes jumped right into music theory! In our orchestras, it is vital to have an understanding of basic music theory concepts we will use in class. From breaking down scales and intervals, to talking about rhythm and pitch, to conceptualizing the Circle of Fifths, our students delved into everything from reading key signatures, to relative and parallel keys, and this studying will continue throughout the year! However, now almost two months in, we have been able to apply these ideas, whether old or new, to the music we have received. In this, our students have been able to gain a deeper understanding of theory and how to apply it. Since then, Mr. Collett has given out playing tests on scales, both major and minor, as well as a few over our music; our students have been busy! When asked about the first month of school, Ethan Chriss said that, “... while orchestra has looked different in these unprecedented times, I have really enjoyed being back with everyone in class. I am impressed by Mr. Collett and his effort to keep us working hard. He has elevated us toward a goal, and even though the future is uncertain, we have been able to play united as a group to make the best music we possibly can, and that’s what I enjoy most about orchestra.” Cameron Rizley added, “... I was intrigued to see how this year would work out, because of the virus, but overall, I’m just really glad that we are all back together and are able to play again. Right now, Chamber is working on October, Baroque Variants, Changes in Time, and Emerald Falcon, as well as All Region music for the year. I’m looking forward to showcasing our work- we’ve been putting together some great pieces.” A third student, Annie Austin also said that she is, “...looking forward to performances this year the most! I am excited to be able to at least play for a small crowd, and I am excited to work on new music with my orchestra this year.” She went on to add that the Camerata orchestra has “...worked on Fantasia on a 17th Century Tune and Perpetuoso. I have also played Vivaldi in A Minor and have been working on All Region pieces on my own.”
As the first month of school comes to a close, we ask our students to remain diligent about practicing and ask that they continue to keep an open mindset! The work we do in class is not easy and takes a lot of patience and dedication, and in the midst of the happenings of the world, we encourage them to continue to put forth the exemplary effort we have been seeing in class. We are so looking forward to what this year will bring! It will no doubt be a memorable one, and while it might not be the year that we originally thought it would be, it will be made incredibly worthwhile and better because of our amazing students! Let’s make it a great year!