Solo & Ensemble Performances This Week at Pulaski

Adison Karbon, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

Students here at NDA are working hard to heighten their Solo and Ensemble performances.

This competition is sectioned into several class/levels in both instrumental and vocal categories with class A being the highest and the only one that can qualify for state.

Each class has a list of about 100 pieces to choose from prior to the first competition: regionals. Usually regionals is held at Preble High School for NDA students, but they will be performing this Friday through the weekend at Pulaski.

Competitors give a speech about the piece and then perform for the judge. You can be ranked from 1, the highest, to 5, the lowest. If a performer receives a “starred first (1*),” then he can advance to state.

Claire Edgar said, “A starred first denotes that the judge found the piece relatively perfect and wants the contestant to advance to the state level held in May.”

“It is not that unheard of/surprising to make it to state if you are well prepared and confident in your performance,” said Hannah Vanden Heuvel. “However, placing 1 or exemplary at state is much more challenging.”

State is normally held at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay with a very similar process, with one additional recognition: exemplary performance nominees.

The judge can select up to two contestants to receive the “exemplary performance recognition” award in each category. Many students here at NDA have fallen in love with this competition and are preparing full swing for state in May.

Claire Edgar, a senior, has competed as a class A piano soloist for the last three years. Junior year, she performed a duet with Marion Hermitanio and received a first at state. Sophomore year, she performed a trio with Sam Frantz and Marion Hermitanio which also received a first.

Freshman and sophomore year, she received a first in the solo category and was nominated for the “exemplary performance” award last year. This year she is hoping to be selected for this award, since only seniors typically receive it. She will be performing an “uncommon” solo called “Suite Española No. 1, Op.47: No. 1, Castilla” by Isaac Albeníz.

“When I sit down to play, I get a kind of adrenaline rush, and I love it,” she said. “I also love performing for the judges because their demeanor completely changes between when you first sit down and when you play the last note of your piece.”

“They usually change from stoic to smiling in those 3 to 10 minutes,” she said. She loves the sense of excitement and suspense that accompanies these performances, not only during the performance, but also when she is waiting for the scores to be posted.

Hannah Vanden Heuvel, also a senior, has competed in vocal jazz, music theatre and classical voice, but this year, she will only be competing in vocal jazz.

Vanden Heuvel has a strong love for performing which has overflown into Solo and Ensemble.

“My favorite part of Solo and Ensemble is having a reason to learn more solos and build my repertoire,” she said. “It is also really interesting to receive feedback from other voice teachers.”

Ava Griffitt will be competing in the Woodwind Choir, with this year being her first year not competing as a soloist. She tries to practice at least every other day leading up to performances, “but sometimes things get too busy.”

Even though it is hard work, Griffitt has been devoted all through high school. “I love the feeling right after I perform,” she said. “All of the tension is gone!”

Mr. Steve Johnson, band director, and Mrs. Christine Salerno, choral director, both play a crucial role in preparing these students.

“For soloists and small ensembles, I help students to choose music and work with them in lessons to help them learn it,” Johnson said. “In addition, I help them find an accompanist, find a date and festival site that works for them, arrange times for their accompanist to come to school to rehearse with them, and find extra printed copies of the piece for the judge if necessary.”

Soloists practice their piece everyday on their own and will meet with Johnson and their accompanist several times before the performance. In large ensembles, like jazz band, brass ensemble, or woodwind ensemble, regular rehearsals are held once or twice a week, and they have been meeting since the second or third week of school.

The students in these groups already are experienced performers so it is “just a matter of directing rehearsal time toward the specific pieces we are preparing for at the WSMA festival,” explained the band director.

According to Johnson, the biggest challenge this year has been finding a date that works for the students since their typical site is scheduled for the Saturday of NDA’s spring break.