No day off for string orchestra members

The school’s camerata orchestra to record concert Friday

A select few orchestra and band students made the bus trip to San Antonio for the 2018 TMEA convention.

Amber Holt

A select few orchestra and band students made the bus trip to San Antonio for the 2018 TMEA convention.

Teachers have professional development on Friday, giving most students a four day weekend. But varsity orchestra camerata students will be recording a concert at the Allen High School Performing Arts Center at 8:00 p.m. for submission to TMEA for the Honor Orchestra competition.

It’s a huge honor to be named the Honor Orchestra of the state of Texas”

— orchestra director Julie Blackstock

“In the fall, it’s for high school string orchestras. You submit with orchestras from all over the state,” orchestra director Julie Blackstock said. “String orchestra programs are to be judged by orchestra directors from all around the state. There’s a two panel process the first day, they listen to all fifty plus orchestras that have submitted this year and then they whittle it down to a final five or eight, depending on how many. Then the second day those five or eight are judged again on their program and then they’re ranked.”

If selected, the group will travel to San Antonio to perform at the convention in February of 2018.

“The winner is invited to perform at the Texas Music Educators Association Clinic and Conference in February at the same time that the All-State orchestras, bands, and choirs perform,” Blackstock said. “We would be responsible for preparing a fifty minute program in the next essentially two and a half months and we would play in front of all of our peers and colleagues from around the state and often from around the country. It’s a huge honor to be named the Honor Orchestra of the state of Texas.”

Students have been preparing the repertoire since the beginning of the school year.

“We’ve had sectionals since the third week of school every week,” Blackstock said. “Students come in one day a week before school for about 45 minutes for sectionals. They sound great, they’ve done a really wonderful job and I’m really excited about the concert on Friday.”

To Blackstock, winning the title of Honor Orchestra would be extra special.

“I’d be ecstatic if we won,” Blackstock said. “I’d be nervous and also a little bit panicked if we won because it is such a short turnaround to prepare the level of concert that we would need. I would be thrilled to win for the students. I think it would be a huge boost in confidence.”

Some of the freshmen members of Camerata feel lucky to be a part of the experience.

“I feel honored to be a part of the top orchestra and also having the opportunity to help,” freshman Jonathan Peng said. “This really is a privilege that can’t be taken for granted and I’ll have to play my best.”

At the other end of the high school spectrum are the seniors who are also motivated for the chance to be named Honor Orchestra.

This really is a privilege that can’t be taken for granted and I’ll have to play my best”

— freshman Jonathan Peng

“I feel energized and more ready than ever to compete because it is my last year,” senior Mia Rho said. “I would love to accomplish something big in my last year.”

If the orchestra is selected, the performance wouldn’t be until 2018, leaving the graduating upperclassmen in an unusual position.

“It would definitely be a bittersweet situation,” Rho said. “I want the underclassmen and the people I leave behind to have the experience I did through high school. But still I’ll be a little disappointed to not being able to experience it with them.”

Whether the orchestra experiences a win or not, Blackstock believes that the work and heart is what truly counts.

“I don’t know if I would be disappointed. I would like for us to be successful and make the final round,” Blackstock said. “I think that would boost the students’ confidence in themselves and their enthusiasm and know that their effort was worth it.”