Orchestra, band encounter friendly, helpful judges, end with six awards at Golden Empire Festival (video included)

(Photo used by permission of Allison Zhang)
Sophomore Allison Zhang, juniors Yasmin Gupta and Atsuo Chiu, senior Anny Schmidt and sophomore Chardonnay Needler play “Piano Quintet No.1 Op.5.,” for which they won silver.

Securing one gold, four silvers and a bronze, the high-school musicians  performed in the Golden Empire Solo and Small Ensemble Festival on March 4, continuing their annual tradition.

Three students from orchestra performed solo pieces. A trio and a piano quintet also performed.

The entire band also went to the festival as a chamber group, performing “Anitra’s Dance” from “Peer Gynt”.

The band’s judge was someone whom high-school band director Bob Ratcliff has known for many years.

She gave the high-school band a 2, granting them a silver medal.

“(The judge) has always graded my bands nicely,” Ratcliff said. “If I were to grade the band’s performance, I would probably give them a very similar average score.”

Sophomore Chardonnay Needler, cellist, secured the only gold rating, performing “Elegie in C Minor” by French composer Gabriel Fauré.

Yet this is not what Needler originally planned on performing.

“I was planning on doing a concerto in D major,” Needler said. “But about a week and a half before the performance, I realized I wasn’t ready, so I decided to play a piece I had played last year.”

Needler was quick to criticize her performance.

Allison Zhang
Senior Anny Schmidt performs while freshman Shimin Zhang accompanies her on piano.

“I rushed during certain parts, and at one point my string squeaked, which had never happened during practice,” Needler said. “During the end of the piece, I kind of forgot the notes, so I was relying on muscle memory to play the last few.”

Needler also performed in a piano quintet, along with senior Anny Schmidt (viola), sophomore Allison Zhang (first violin) and juniors Yasmin Gupta (second violin) and Atsuo Chiu (piano), performing “Piano Quintet No.1 Op.5.”

“Both groups had played better before, but they still played very well in front of the judges,” orchestra teacher Felecia Keys said. “Everyone was really busy that morning, and they were really rushed getting to their performances.”

The quintet also earned a 2, or silver, for their performance.

“We didn’t play it as well as we could have,” Schmidt said, “But I think we played it well enough that our score could have gone either way, a gold or a silver.”

Schmidt said the group didn’t play with much emotion.

Zhang and Schmidt also performed solo pieces.  Zhang played “Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op.22”.

“The soloists are almost entirely on their own (in preparation),” Keys said. “They work with their teachers, (but) sometime I never hear them play until the competition.”

The other group from the orchestra was a piano trio, comprised of freshmen Emma Boersma (violin), Monet Cook (cello) and Shimin Zhang (piano). They performed “Allegro Assai.”

They also got a 2, or a silver, from the judges.

Allison Zhang
Freshmen Emma Boersma, Shimin Zhang and Monet Cook perform “Allegro Assai.” The trio was awarded a silver.

“All of us thought we would get a 3 (bronze) at most,” Boersma said. “Especially after seeing the quintet get a 2, I thought we didn’t do nearly as well as them.”

Cook and Boersma both said they were extremely nervous for their first chamber group performance.

“My arms were shaking before I played,” Cook said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared.”

All of the orchestra groups had the same judge, an eccentric violist.

Needler said that she has noticed that most of the time judges who play string instruments are much fairer than those who play wind instruments.

Schmidt agreed that the judge was fair but very eccentric and energetic.

“He was really funny to watch as he judged the other students,” Boersma said. “He kept jittering, and whenever anyone messed up he would aggressively write on his paper.”

Cook and Boersma also said the judge was very helpful and gave his advice as nicely as he could.

“He personally came up and gave each of us corrections,” Cook said. “He corrected my fourth-finger position and gave me pointers on how I could hold my arm better.”

By Mehdi Lacombe

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