The top high school orchestra musicians from Bucks and Montgomery counties arrived at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School (PWHS) early Thursday morning for the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) District 11 Orchestra Festival. After approximately 20 hours of rehearsal over the following two and a half days, the group performed a concert on Saturday, January 12, in the PWHS auditorium.
"It's very high level," said Kayla Heincer, a PWHS cello player performing with the ensemble. "It was a little intimidating, but it's been a lot of fun. The music's great."
This year's program included The Carmen Suite by Bizet, Capriccio Espanol by Rimsky-Korsakov and Suite Espanola by Albinez. The 115-piece orchestra was under the baton of Maestro Allan R. Scott, nationally-renowned Music Director of the Helena Symphony Orchestra and Chorale in Helena, Montana, who returns to the Philadelphia area several times a year to also conduct the Southeastern Pennsylvania Symphony Orchestra (SPSO).
"I chose repertoire that features every section of the orchestra but at the same time comprises a nice program. It's all this wonderful Spanish music," explained Maestro Scott. "I wanted to choose repertoire that allows them to stretch a little bit as artists. My goal is to give them an experience that is a really top level symphonic professional type of experience. I'm doing the same thing I would be doing with SPSO or any other orchestra."
The musicians were selected from more than 600 students who participated in an intense audition process in December and included PWHS students Nathan Cideciyan (violin), Desmond Brock (clarinet), Kayla Heincer (cello), Zoe Hoang (cello) and Emily Hoang (oboe). The festival began with a second audition for seating and to compete for a chance to go to the regional festival. At the regional festival, students will compete to perform at the state level.
"These are not just any high school kids. These are the best of the best of the district, so these are people who are very serious about making music," added Maestro Scott. "It's regular symphonic professional repertoire, and they're 100% prepared. We started from the first downbeat to make music."
The PMEA District 11 Orchestra festival was hosted by Elise Derewitz, PWHS orchestra director.