By KRUTHI RENDUCHINTALA
Arts & Entertainment Editor
On Thursday, March 19 the UHS Symphonic Orchestra, under the direction of Ms. Grace Lee (Visual and Performing Arts Dept.), competed in the 2015 American Strings Teachers Association (ASTA) National Orchestra Festival at Salt Lake City, Utah. Symphonic Orchestra received third place out of nine orchestras. In order to be selected for the festival, the orchestra had to audition, or send a recording to the ASTA selection board. In 2013, Symphonic Orchestra attended the 2013 ASTA competition in Rhode Island, and won second place.
Symphonic Orchestra has prepared for the ASTA festival since September. When asked to compare the orchestra’s experience at the festival this year to its experience two years ago, Lee said, “We were more prepared and there was a lot more focus and attention to detail. Section leaders really took leadership of their roles and the orchestra was a lot more unified. Our attitude this time was very different from two years ago. The students were less nervous and they truly enjoyed their performance.”
The first song Symphonic Orchestra performed was “Adagio Cantabile,” a slow and mellow piece by Franz Josef Haydn. The second song was “Of Glorious Plumage,” a modern piece by Richard Meyer. The last song that the orchestra competed with is “Introduction and Allegro for Strings” by Edward Elgar, a lengthy and demanding piece that featured a quartet composed of Sydney Mariano (Sr.) Chelsea Mariano (So.) on the violin, Hanlin Chen (So.) on the viola and Jonathan Lien (Jr.) on the cello. Both “Introduction and Allegro for Strings” and “Of Glorious Plumage” are Grade 5 pieces, the most difficult level of school orchestra musical literature in California.
Lee said about the final performance, “I am so proud and impressed with this group. I never saw them play with so much emotion and passion together. The sound of the orchestra was gorgeous and warm. It was by far our best performance so far and we savored every single moment of it.”
Though many of Symphonic Orchestra’s members had never been to an ASTA festival before, some of the orchestra members, including Clarissa Wu (Sr.) attended both the 2013 and 2015 competitions. She said that the 2013 festival was unique because the orchestra was trying something completely new and was pleasantly surprised to win second place in its category. ASTA 2015, however, “differed completely in terms of agenda. There was a certain determination as a more connected group to achieve greatness. This time we were closer as a whole, and we shared our triumphs and grievances throughout the year – and the chemistry in our orchestra was palpable. Perhaps my only complaint is that Utah sincerely is less exciting than Rhode Island, with the salt lake making us very salty.”
Sydney Mariano (Sr.), the concertmistress of Symphonic Orchestra, said, “When we stepped onto the beautiful stage of the Abravanel Hall, I knew right away that this was the stage that we deserved and that being there in that gorgeous hall with all my fellow musicians just felt so right. When we won third place, I knew that winning was not even our main goal – our main goal was to be the best we could be, and at the same time have fun. We poured our hearts into the music we played, and it was one of our best performances ever.”