SCMEA Honors Some of the County’s Best Student Musicians

Kelly Zhang (12th), Reporter

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Throughout last Friday and Saturday, Modesto Junior College hosted concerts for many of Stanislaus County’s outstanding musicians. Both junior high and high school students from a variety of different schools in the area auditioned for the SCMEA Honor Festival, an event created by the Stanislaus County Music Educators Association (SCMEA) in order to celebrate students’ musical talents.

On Friday, January 26, the festival’s junior high and high school honor choirs performed under the direction of guest conductors Molly Peters and Dr. Angel M. Vázquez-Ramos, respectively. Although this Roaring Times reporter did not get to attend in person, trustworthy account says that the concert went fantastically—there were donation baskets offered to attendees after the concerts, and the choir performances raised well over $700.

Unfortunately, no students from the Turlock Unified School District participated in this year’s honor choirs. However, many from Turlock, Pitman, and more were members of the honor orchestras and honor bands.

Over the course of two short weeks, all attended a total of three rehearsals (or four in the high school honor orchestra’s case). Within those two weeks, the orchestras and bands practiced their pieces as an ensemble for the first time and learned to perform them under their conductors for concert day—Saturday, January 27.

The experience is extremely valuable for many aspiring musicians, as it challenges them to perform their best alongside other skilled students in their county, while also receiving constant feedback from accomplished guest conductors. Several of these conductors have numerous accolades under their belts, and all have much experience teaching and working with musicians.

Pitman students in the honor orchestra were conducted by Dr. Thomas Loewenheim, currently a professor and the Director of Orchestras at California State University, Fresno, and described as a “unique musician who enjoys an international career… [having toured] North America, Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East.” In the high school honor band, some of Pitman’s students performed under Dr. David Vickerman, the current Director of Bands at San José State University and a “fervent advocate for contemporary music,” having commissioned pieces from illustrious composers and conducted many world premieres.

With master guest conductors and some of the most skilled musicians in the county, it’s no surprise that the concerts were amazing. The high school honor orchestra performed from three pieces: Andante Festivo by Jean Sibelius, Serenade for Strings by Edward Elgar, and Quartett-Satz in C Minor by Franz Schubert. The high school honor band performed four pieces: Awakenings by Kimberly K. Archer, Joy Revisited by Frank Ticheli, This Cruel Moon by John Mackey, and Melodious Thunk by David Biedenbender.

For any aspiring musicians in Stanislaus County, participating in SCMEA’s Honor Festival is highly recommended for the invaluable experience and interactions with not only talented peers but accomplished guest conductors. If that’s not enough, participants can also receive scholarships to summer music camps, all of which offer programs well worth their costs.

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