Students Participate in Solo and Ensemble

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Dhriti Prakash

The cellos lined up in the “Cello-Base Chamber” of the MHS Orchestra room

Dhriti Prakash

It was 7:35 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 19. Walking into the warm up rooms, anxious teenagers could already hear the sound of metal stands clanking, strings being tuned up from G# to A. Powerful bows. Flowing melodies. Deep breaths. For the hundreds of orchestra students in Middleton High School, Glacier Creek Middle School, and Kromrey Middle School, it was the day they had waited for. It was the Solo and Ensemble Festival.

Solo and Ensemble is an annual one-day event that happens at many schools around the country. Students have the opportunity to practice and perform a solo, a duet, or a group piece with three or more people in front of a judge. They then get feedback on things they do well and ways they can improve. Sometimes, students will choose to get their piece numerically ranked from one to five (one being the best), allowing those who achieve a one* (called “one star”) the opportunity to compete in a state-wide Solo and Ensemble competition later in the year. Mostly, it is an exciting and exhilarating experience for all to play an instrument they love and watch their friends perform.

Ashley Heuer, a freshman violinist, said that for her solo, she played “Student’s Concertino No. 4.” 

“It was fun, but it was also very stressful because you kind of had one shot and it was all resting on the one shot,” said Heuer. “Double stops [playing two strings at once] was challenging and something I had to work on a lot so I had to attack that really hard.” 

Heuer chose not to receive a numerical rating for her solo. She also partook in a quartet of two violinists, a violist, and a cellist, as a group piece is a requirement for all orchestra students at MHS.

“The ensemble was a little more stressful [due to the preparation] but a little less stressful because you’re part of a group, so you have a bit of backup,” she said. 

Despite the stress, their group found success. They chose to receive a numerical rating and earned a one.

Shreya Ramesh, another freshman violinist, played two pieces: movements 2 and 3 of “Sonata No. 3” by Handel for her solo piece, and “Sonatina” by Heinrich Lichner for her ensemble. 

“For my solo I’ve played [a solo] before and I wasn’t as nervous then, but this time I was more nervous because it was a harder piece and had faster notes. With my ensemble, I learned for the first time how to sync and play with other people because I’ve never had that sort of experience before and it was really fun.” She explained that when she first got there she wasn’t as nervous for her performance, but as she got closer to her actual playing time, the nerves started to build up. She added that it was fun, though. “It was pretty organized, but pretty chaotic, and I got confused on some of the logistical aspects.” 

In addition to the competition aspect, Solo and Ensemble allows students to perform in a different setting than in front of their music teacher. They are able to put themselves in a unique situation and use the performance to help them develop their music skills further.

 “I think it was a good experience because I got to learn how high school Solo and Ensemble is different from middle school Solo and Ensemble,” said Ramesh.“I think that the judges were super helpful and I overall learned a lot from this experience.”

Through the Solo and Ensemble experience, students learn how to deal with performance pressure while still having fun on a day where they get to do something they love. Yes, it can be nerve-wracking. And yes, they only get one shot. But the point of the event is for students to learn how to not let the nerves get the best of them and do as well as they can. Students seem to have experienced the pressure of the event, but overall, it was a great experience for the musical community of MCPASD.