WHS music students excel in Eastern Senior District Festival auditions

Drawing+made+by+Rajan+depicting+the+Eastern+Senior+District+Festival+and+the+various+categories%E2%80%94voice%2C+strings%2C+winds+and+percussion%2C+and+jazz.

Divya Rajan

Drawing made by Rajan depicting the Eastern Senior District Festival and the various categories—voice, strings, winds and percussion, and jazz.

Divya Rajan, Staff Writer

Music students of WHS auditioned for the virtual Eastern District Senior Festival last month, with 45 students being accepted into senior districts and 26 receiving an All States recommendation. The top players accepted into districts received an All States recommendation and will compete against other students in the state by submitting their audition video by January 19, 2021.

High school and middle school band teacher Claire Nalven was pleased with the success of the students despite COVID challenges.

“Weston did an outstanding job! The number of students that were admitted was very high and I’m new this year, but my understanding is it’s one of the best years Weston has had even given the pandemic, which is pretty remarkable,” Nalven exclaimed.

In addition to teachers enjoying the audition, one specific student who achieved success is freshman Jacqueline Stjernfeldt, who was accepted in the alto voice part in the vocal category.

“It’s fun! It’s something that I practiced for and it’s like a goal that’s recurring,” Stjernfeldt exclaimed.   

The audition process was different this year due to the pandemic, as students had to record a video of themselves as their audition. Students could record the video multiple times until they felt confident about their performance. Students were also allowed to audition on more than one instrument.

Junior Jonathan Henry was one such student who auditioned on many instruments. He was accepted with an All State recommendation for mallets, snare drum, and timpani in the winds and percussion category.

“You have to learn a piece for each instrument, and then an auxiliary percussion piece, which is where you play a bunch of different instruments in succession,” Henry explained. “Because of the COVID shut down we didn’t have to do the auxiliary piece because most people don’t have access to that number of instruments.”

Furthermore, students maintained a practice schedule to be accepted into districts. Junior Elizabeth Crawford, who was accepted with an All State recommendation for the alto voice part in the vocal category, practiced regularly. 

“I would practice in the month leading up to it. I practiced twice a week for an hour each time and then the week that I filmed it, I rehearsed 15 minutes each day just to make sure I was memorized,” Crawford said. “I think that being off-book is a lot easier to show your expression through the song.”

Though students put forth their best effort for the virtual auditions, some faculty and students preferred the old audition format.

“The in-person is more of a real audition. When you go to audition, it typically should be a one shot deal,” high school and middle school music teacher Jonathan Eldridge explained. 

With All State auditions approaching, recommendees will have to begin practicing the required solo piece for their category.

“To prepare, I need to learn the piece, and how to improvise over it,” sophomore Theodore Luu, accepted with an All State recommendation for piano in the jazz category, mentioned.

Teachers believe that Weston will maintain the momentum they had during districts as they move onto All States.

“If we keep preparing our All State recommendees and the musicians themselves prepare really well and work with the resources that they’re given, there’s no reason why we can’t represent extremely well,” Eldridge remarked.

Faculty members agree that participating in senior districts is a great opportunity for everyone.

“It’s good to have to prepare something at such a high level and really perfect it, and then have it judged and give you some feedback on how you do. I’m really thrilled that MMEA offered all these opportunities for students,” music director Christopher Memoli said.

Through the many benefits of auditioning, the festival teaches students valuable life skills.

“I always tell my musicians, the audition process is an extremely important life skill, because not only does it help you feel more comfortable and hone your audition skills, but it also teaches you through experience how to represent yourself well, how to be a stronger public speaker, and how to interview better,” Eldridge stated.