By TRISTAN MALHOTRA
On April 27, IUSD showcased its top instrumental and choral music students in the 33rd annual Donald Bren Honors Concert. Every year, top musicians from elementary school to high school perform at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. A variety of University High School’s (UHS) own wind, string and choral musicians were selected to perform with this year’s High School Honor Chorus and High School Honor Orchestra, under the direction of guest choral conductor Dr. Angel M. Vazquez-Ramos and guest orchestral conductor Dr. Stephen Tucker. The students were selected by their respective teachers: Ms. Grace Lee (Visual and Performing Arts Dept.), Mr. Corey Heddon (Visual and Performing Arts Dept.) and Mr. Justin Olvey (Visual and Performing Arts Dept.). Of the selection process, Ms. Lee said, “I take into consideration skill level and availability, dependability, and seniority.” After selection, the students had very little time to prepare, with only two rehearsals before the performance.
The night began with performances from the Elementary Honor Chamber Strings, Elementary Honor Chorus, Elementary Honor Orchestra, Middle School Honor Chorus and Middle School Honor Orchestra. Each group performed a variety of pieces, from romantic to contemporary, to show off its skills. Following the elementary and middle school students, the High School Honor Chorus performed three songs. “Let Everything that Hath Breath” by Jeffery Ames, the choir’s final song, featured five soloists, including UHS’s own Ryan Nicholson (Sr.); these soloists had to audition within the choir to be chosen for a solo. After the performance, Nicholson said, “The reason I wanted to audition was because it was a gospel song and gospel is one of my favorite genres of music to sing. I get to really let loose and sing out as loud and big as I want to.”
One of the main highlights of the night was when the winds and percussion joined the string players to perform Symphony No. 9, Movement IV by Antonin Dvorak. This is the finale to Dvorak’s New World Symphony, in which the composer attempted to capture his idea of America in his first visit to the so-called “New World.” The piece is challenging and complex, featuring a variety of key, tempo and dynamic changes. The orchestra flawlessly adjusted to the changes together, showcasing the incredible talent in the players to perform well as a group after minimal rehearsal. Following the performance, the Honor Orchestra concertmistress, Sydney Mariano (Sr.), said, “Having the honor of being the concertmistress felt like a faraway dream that had been finally achieved. I’ve never been gladder of being given the privilege of serving as the concertmistress in my final year because I’ve never thought of the position as a rank – I’ve thought of it as a way to represent my orchestra.” Finally, the chorus and orchestra combined to perform the American classic “Battle Hymn of the Republic” by William Steffe.
After the performance, Ms. Lee said, “I am a proud mama bear when I watch my students perform on stage at the IUSD Honors Concert. The music directors actually have to help out backstage during the actual performance but every time I have a cheesy grin on my face as I watch my students through the small monitors backstage. The IUSD Honors Concert is a really neat performance opportunity where all the top music students from the elementary school level all the way up to high school get to come together and perform in the beautiful Segerstrom Hall.”