The high-school and middle-school music groups performed in Anaheim as a part of California’s Forum Festival’s Judges’ Invitational on April 17.

The school sent five ensembles:  the high-school string orchestra,  the high-school Jazz Band,  the middle-school string orchestra,  the middle-school Jazz Band and the middle-school choir.

Of those, the orchestras and the choir were competitive, meaning they were directly ranked among the other participating schools.

The high-school orchestra took second place of six schools, and the middle-school orchestra took third of six schools. The middle-school choir did not place.

Despite not placing, the middle-school choir’s performance was phenomenal, Felicia Keys, orchestra and choir teacher, said.

“The other schools had huge choirs, maybe 40 students each,” she said. “Our little group of girls went up there and blew everybody away.”

The rubric that is used to grade each group in every division has five sections: intonation, tone, technique, balance, and interpretation. Each section is worth 20 points.

The middle-school choir scored in the 90’s, which, according to Keys, is very respectable, especially considering the group’s size disadvantage. However, because the middle-school choir division was highly competitive this year, even a score in the 90’s was not enough to place.

Keys praised the orchestra as well.

“The high-school orchestra’s performance was exceptional,” Keys said.  “They played their very best.”

Senior Jaspreet Gill, who plays first violin, agreed with Keys.

“Overall, we played really well,” he said.  “I think we just made little errors here and there.”

Gill said he thinks that the orchestra had sufficient rehearsal time going into the  competition.

“There was really nothing we could’ve done as a group to improve at that point,” he said. “It all comes down to the individual time and practice put in.”

Due to the lack of competition, both Jazz Bands were rated rather than ranked. The rating system is based on national standards – a gold rating means that the group’s performance score was among the top 10 percent of schools nationally; a silver means top 20 percent; a bronze means top 30 percent.

Both the middle- and high-school Jazz Bands earned silver ratings in their respective divisions.

Junior Keaton Ochoa, who plays the guitar in the Jazz Band, said that the group experienced several difficulties in preparing.

“Because the concert band members were incorporated into the Jazz Band for this competition, many of them were new to jazz music,” Ochoa said.  “Therefore, it would have been ideal to have more prep time.”

He explained that in addition the unconventional Jazz Band members were simultaneously learning concert band pieces for the school’s spring concert.

“We were split between practicing our concert band pieces for the spring concert and the jazz pieces for this competition,” he said.  “Our time was divided.”

Band teacher Bob Ratcliff said that he likes this competition because it gives  students a chance to see what the musical “standard” is.

“In sports it’s obvious – you know what the standard is; you know how good you are in comparison to other people because you’re playing against them,” he said. “But in music, it’s not as obvious.  You won’t necessarily know what the standard is unless you go to competitions like these.”

Keys and Ratcliff agreed that the judges’ comments account for a large portion of the trip’s value. Oral comments in the performance recordings have proved especially useful.

“These judges are usually college professors; they know what they’re doing,” Ratcliff said. “I always try to take one thing from their comments and immediately apply it to my bands.”

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