The Phoenix Fire

Solo and Ensemble Festival

Rohan Bulusu, News Reporter

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Over the months of January and February, music students across District 203 prepared for the Solo and Ensemble Festival on February 23rd. Performing in front of a professional evaluator, they played with a small group of their peers. Following the performance, each ensemble received one of four ratings, either Superior, Secure, Developing, or Beginning. These were given based on the ensemble’s demonstration of note accuracy, rhythmic accuracy, articulation balance, dynamics and expression, and stage presentation.

The festival is a great way for students to mature as performers. Eighth grade band student Elaina Malczewski related prior to the festival that it is “a great way to improve our skills on music that is not for the full band.” She expanded by explaining the improvements that her group made while preparing for the performance, saying,“We focused a lot on dynamics and articulation. To fix [these problems], we practiced a little extra.” Though her group experienced a few obstacles, they were able to make it back on track. By scheduling out-of-class rehearsals, they made sure that they were “top-notch for the festival.”

Several ensembles from across Kennedy’s music program expressed difficulties with attendance regarding extra rehearsals, tone quality, rhythmic consistency, and tempo. Elaina’s group experienced some of these issues as well. “Well, for the first extra rehearsal, only two out of four members showed up,” she stated. “In the other one, though, everyone showed up.” Inconsistent attendance did not make the rehearsals useless, however. She added, “Even though a couple of us missed a few of the extra rehearsals, they still helped us perfect the piece.”

Within rehearsals, both scheduled and outside of school, it is the job of students to regularly assess their performances. This is one of the appeals of the Solo and Ensemble Festival, Elaina says. “We can collaborate with other students on music; it’s a student-led study.” With this in mind, she and her ensemble picked apart their piece. “We all looked at each other’s parts to make sure that we could see who had the melody and who had supporting parts, so we could figure out how loud each of us had to play.”

It is experiences like these that afford students the chance to grow as performers and collaborators. Following the performance, students were asked how they thought they did. Though she had previously been unsure, Elaina’s review was, “We did better than I thought we would, and I think we played well.” In the end, her ensemble received a Superior rating, and received ribbons for their musical excellence.

Overall, Kennedy’s band directors, Mr. McManis and Mr. Dethrow, were pleased with their students’ performances, and are currently preparing the full band for a tour to Kennedy’s surrounding elementary schools, which is scheduled for March 21st. Kennedy’s orchestra director, Ms. Tyus, was more reflective, saying that students need to be aware that they must work for their scores. Overall, all three instructors were satisfied with students’ performances and are currently preparing for Kennedy’s next band and orchestra concerts.

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Solo and Ensemble Festival