Country Day’s music program is in full swing, participating in two music festivals two weekends in a row.
The high-school jazz band competed in the Woodcreek Jazz Festival, a two-day jazz competition at Woodcreek High School on Feb. 26-27. Country Day has been attending the festival for over 10 years.
More than 40 schools from the Sacramento and Reno areas participated.
Due to the jazz band’s small size, they performed in the combo division, which included groups of 10 or fewer musicians.
The jazz band played three pieces: “Ugetsu” by Cedar Walton, “Brazil” by Fred Forney and “Blues For CJ” by Bob Meyer. They earned a combined score of 84 out of 100 points, placing fifth of 10 participating groups.
“Our group has played together for a long time and has become pretty tight sounding,” band director Bob Ratcliff said.
“They are playing very challenging arrangements, and they play them very well.”
According to Ratcliff, the jazz band’s mid-level ranking was not due to poor playing.
“The combo division places a greater importance on improvisation than reading, so the groups with stronger improvisers tend to score higher,” Ratcliff said.
He noted that even though Country Day didn’t win, the judges mentioned how well the band played their difficult arrangements.
Additionally, the chamber orchestra and the concert band will be competing Saturday, March 4, in the Golden Empire Solo and Small Ensemble Festival. This will be their first competition of the year.
The festival, held at Sacramento State University, is an annual event hosted by the California Music Educators Association.
Each group has 15 minutes to perform in front of a judge. After the performance, there is time for the judge to ask questions and give critiques. The entry is then ranked gold, silver or bronze.
Entries are judged on technique, dynamics, intonation, togetherness, communication and performance.
If an entry wins gold, the group is eligible for the state competition, which is also held at Sac State in May.
Orchestra director Felecia Keys said that they have had groups go on to the state competition each year.
Country Day is entering three solo and two group performances.
The soloists are Senior Anny Schmidt (viola), sophomore Chardonnay Needler (cello) and sophomore Allison Zhang (violin).
One piano trio – freshmen Emma Boersma (violin), Monet Cook (cello) and Shimin Zhang (piano) – and one piano quintet – Schmidt (viola), Needler (cello), Allison Zhang (first violin) and juniors Yasmin Gupta (second violin) and Atsuo Chiu (piano) – are also competing.
Schmidt has participated in this competition before, receiving gold in both group and solo at the county and state competitions last year.
Even so, she is still nervous about this year’s competition.
“I really want to go on since this is my last year, and I love playing chamber music,” Schmidt said
Allison Zhang and Needler also earned gold at both levels.
Zhang said the chamber group has improved a lot in the last few weeks, especially since the piece they’re playing (Dvorak’s “Piano Quintet, No. 1, Opus 5”) is harder than last year’s.
—By Anna Frankel