By CELINE NGUYEN
For this March’s Artist of the Month, we asked Ms. Grace Lee (Visual and Performing Arts Dept.) to nominate a student for the honor. She said, “There are so many [students]! There isn’t one who stands out. There’s many. Can I nominate an ensemble?”
In lieu of nominating a single student, Lee nominated Symphony Orchestra, which placed first in its category at the American Strings Teacher Association (ASTA) National Conference this year. Composed of distinguished musicians, UHS Symphony Orchestra regularly competes at ASTA’s National Orchestra Festival and holds several concerts throughout the school year.
Despite its large size, the group’s overall cohesiveness is stunning and plays a major part in its success.
Allison Chae (Jr.) considers ASTA 2016 to be her most memorable orchestra experience. She said, “I love playing music as a group [in symphony orchestra] and being able to express ourselves [through music] together.”
She attributes Symphony Orchestra’s first-place win to how everyone in the orchestra tries to “play and feel the music in the same way so that the music we play sounds like one.” She said, “We play more than simply the notes on the sheet music; we express our deepest emotions through [the music] and make it come alive.”
Symphony Orchestra is only able to make music “come alive” because of its members’ ability to work together, making “it one of the most tightly bonded and intimate ensembles I have ever played in,” violinist Tyler Rho (Jr.) said.
She said, “Everyone is so supportive and uplifting, and it is because of this overall positivity that our performances have and are continuing to improve dramatically as the year progresses. To travel with such an amazing group was nothing but a blessing, and to collectively receive such a high and prestigious title with my closest friends was such a rewarding moment that I will never forget.”
Concertmaster Phil Chen (So.) has fond memories of last year’s ASTA Festival. He said, “We were supposed to be warming up and rehearsing for our performance, but we were already very well prepared. Instead of practicing, we spent the whole hour listening to different leaders in the orchestra talk about how meaningful orchestra has been to them and how great our orchestra was.”
Orchestra, with its frequent rehearsals and performances, has grown into a tight-knit community, a quality reflected in its incredible skill and sound.
“I think that we, as an orchestra, are very close,” principal cellist Jonathon Lien (Sr.) said. “It has not only taken our performances to the next level, it’s also made performing a lot more fun.”
Violinist Chelsea Mariano (Jr.) said, “I have grown so much in orchestra ever since freshman year. I believe the orchestra has grown with me.” Mariano went from having weekly rehearsals for Symphony Orchestra to class every morning as a sophomore. She said that ASTA 2015 was a great learning experience. “Now [this year] we’ve won first place in the nation in Florida for ASTA 2016. It has been such a journey for me.”
Rho, reflecting on Symphony Orchestra’s ASTA win, said, “The trophy is the manifestation of our dedication and effort that we all put into this performance, and I could not be more proud of the ensemble that we are today.”