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Midvale Middle School, Hillcrest High instrumental students to perform winter concerts

Dec 01, 2016 03:02PM ● Published by Julie Slama

Midvale Middle school’s concert orchestra, under the direction of Lena Wood, prepares for the winter concert that will be held at Hillcrest High School. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Stama | julie@mycityjournals.com


Sixth grader Maria Manousakis, who is learning how to play tenor saxophone in Midvale Middle School’s beginning woodwind class, is both excited and a little uncertain for her first concert at Hillcrest High School.

“I’m excited to see what music we’ll play,” she said. “I think the best part though will be when it’s done. I will have played and I won’t be nervous.”

Maria and her fellow Midvale Middle musicians will perform in joint winter concerts with Hillcrest musicians on Wednesday, Dec. 14 for orchestras and on Thursday, Dec. 15 for bands. Both concerts will begin at 7 p.m. at Hillcrest High, 7350 South 900 East in Midvale.

This also will be Maria’s first visit to Hillcrest High, which may be an option for her high school career.

“I know the stage will be a lot bigger. The whole school is bigger with more rooms for specialized classes, but it will be a great opportunity to play there,” she said.

Those are some of the reasons why Midvale Middle School Instrumental Director Lena Wood and Hillcrest High School’s Band Director Kristi Pehrson and Orchestra Director RaNae Dalgleish set up joint concert programs.

“This is an opportunity for middle school students to go into Hillcrest’s building and see what it might be like to go to that school,” Wood said. “They will get to meet new people and fellow musicians. Our students also will get to hear the high school students perform so they will learn their expectations.”

Wood said it will give Hillcrest’s music council officers a chance to showcase their leadership.

“Their officers will meet our students and help them set up and it gives our students a chance to ask them questions about playing or the program at Hillcrest,” Wood said.

Hillcrest senior and music council member Charlie Case, who plays bass clarinet in symphonic band and trombone in jazz band, said it will be a great experience for Midvale Middle students to perform at the high school.

“They will learn what to expect from a high school band class, get to know the band room, and what they need to work on to prepare for the Hillcrest Symphonic Band,” Charlie said. “The diversity of playing abilities, instruments and age groups will only add to the overall learning experience. We have high-caliber players in our band and I believe that these young musicians will want to be able to achieve this in the future. They will truly be able to see how far they can come in a couple of years. We’re excited that Midvale will be able to perform with us and we’re going to have a great time.”

The concert has been done twice in the past, but this year, Wood believes her students will be better prepared and the date will better timing.

“We’ve done it in January, but it’s post holiday music and we haven’t yet prepared for our region festivals so it was hard to play appropriate music. We tried last year in October, but some of our beginning players only knew three notes. This year, by December, our beginning players will be able to play more with about eight notes,” she said.

She also said it gives her more advanced students a chance to learn to play with each other as some are returning students and others come from several elementary schools that feed into Midvale Middle.

She said she expects each of her groups to perform two songs that will push them musically whether it’s more complicated rhythms, performing with dynamics or listening to each other for balance.

Midvale Middle’s beginning orchestra has about 35 members while its concert orchestra has 38 players, some who have played up to nine years. The school’s beginning band is comprised of 61 members and the symphonic band has 31 players, most who have played between one and three years.

Hillcrest High has a 32-member auditioned chamber orchestra with musicians having five to 10 years of experience and the non-auditioned 40-member string orchestra with members having studied one to five years of music.

Hillcrest has several different band programs including the 17-member auditioned jazz band, who have three to eight years of music experience; the 35-member auditioned symphonic band, who have three to eight years of music experience; the 45-member non-audition concert band consisting mostly of musicians with one to four years of experience; and the 20-member audition percussion ensemble.

Maria, who picked to play tenor saxophone because she wants to eventually play in a jazz band, was looking forward to hearing Hillcrest play.

“I think they’ll play different music with more emotion,” she said.

Wood plans to have her students not only listen to the other groups perform, but to themselves as well.

“I will record the concert and have them listen to themselves and reflect on it. We practice in our classroom how to have proper concert etiquette and how to listen to each other during playing tests so they will be graded on their behavior and poise both on stage and in the audience at this concert,” she said.  

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