High-school music ensembles nab gold, silver ratings at Golden Empire

Country Day music groups brought home seven golds, one superior and one silver at the Golden Empire Music Festival on March 8.

From the high school, three groups—the string trio,  the string quartet,  and  the woodwind trio—earned gold; the woodwind quartet took silver; and junior Emma Williams grabbed a superior for her solo performance.

“We did great, especially for a school our size,” music teacher Felecia Keys said. “We blended really well with the other musicians.”

For her solo, Williams played  the Largo movement of Bach’s Sonata No. 3 in C and said it was incredibly nerve-wracking.

“I just tried to focus on the music itself instead of the fact that I’m performing it in front of a judge,” Williams said.

Freshman Anny Schmidt, who was in the string quartet, was also very nervous, since this was her first performance in a competition.

“We won gold, which means we advance to states,” she said. “We played Mozart’s Rondo in G, and though we did well, I think I could have done better because I messed up at one point.

“But luckily the judge was nice and didn’t seem to notice it too much.”

Junior Anna Wiley, who has played the piano since she was 6, competed in both the string trio and woodwind quartet.

Although Wiley said most of the groups were very well prepared for the competition and knew they would do well, she, too, admitted to nervousness.

“I was feeling great before the actual performance, but about halfway through the piece I got incredibly nervous,” Wiley said. “I made a tiny mistake, but it was my first so it set me off.”

The string trio, featuring Williams, Schmidt and sophomore Serajh Esmail, took gold for “Heartthrob” by Charles Haydn Arnold.

According to Williams and Schmidt, who both played in the string quartet, the quartet’s performance was very stressful and nerve wracking because the group did not have much time to practice. The group figured out which song to play only two months before the competition, so the actual performance was one of the only times they had played the piece through without stopping.

Nonetheless, they also earned a gold.

“There were definitely parts of each piece which I had never heard sound so good,” Williams said. “Serajh’s part sounded so rich, and I had never heard it sound that beautiful before.”

The ensembles practice twice a week: once individually as quartets, trios, or soloists and once together as a full orchestra to get feedback from the other musicians.

The groups that earned golds and superiors will move on to the state competition, May 10.

The high school strings and full orchestra will also compete in the Golden Empire Music Festival on Saturday, March 15.

“As long as we work hard, we should be fine. But it all depends on the judges; we’ll just have to wait and see,” Keys said.


Middle School

– Violin Duet: Lily Brown (violin), Yasmin Gupta (violin)

– String Duet: Allison Zhang (violin), Chardonnay Needler (cello)

– String Quartet: Allison Zhang (violin), Josh Sellers (violin), Chardonnay Needler (cello), Lily Brown (violin)


High School

– String Trio: Emma Williams (violin), Serajh Esmail (cello), Anna Wiley (piano)

– String Quartet: Emma Williams (violin), Anny Schmidt (violin), Vanessa Previsic (viola), Serajh Esmail (cello)

– Woodwind Quartet: Lara Kong (flute), Amelia Fineberg (oboe), Anthony Swaminathan (bassoon), Anna Wiley (piano)

– Woodwind Trio: Amelia Fineberg (oboe), Anthony Swaminathan (bassoon), Melissa Vazquez (piano)

– Solo performance: Emma Williams (violin)

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