Photo courtesy of Mr. Liss
It may have not been widely known or advertised, but Frederick High School just did its first “concert performance” by hosting an event called SVVSD District Honor Orchestra. Middle schoolers and high schoolers from all over the district came to Frederick on Friday, February 19th, to play in a combined performance that was broadcasted by Mr. Liss, who also helped to conduct some of the pieces. Typically, this event can have 60-70 people, but because of COVID, the group only had 14 people this year with FHS making up one-third of the group.
At this event, everyone wore their masks and was able to perform on the string instrument that they specialize in from cellos to violins. Everyone was also dressed up nice and neatly in their school-issued dresses and tuxedos. With playing such a huge role in this event, Mr. Liss gave further detail as to what exactly went on and what this event was about,
“We had a very unique opportunity to collaborate with the composers of the two pieces we did, as they are both from Colorado and active members of the Colorado music education community that we have connections to as Orchestra Directors.
We brought the composers in via WebEx, and they listened to the students rehearse, giving them feedback on their playing and providing suggestions for improvements prior to our end-of-day recording session.
We then recorded, using a “click-track” (a professional, studio-style form of recording) for one of the pieces, and will be releasing the videos soon.”
Many may ask, “Was this event safe for the players and performers?” It would seem as if it’s not safe to do anything again because other schools aren’t doing it. Though, our school was more than safe because, with 14 students on the auditorium stage, there was more than enough room to socially distance. The players were more than prepared according to Mr. Liss and with such little time to prepare:
“The event exceeded my expectations, in that the students didn’t just play beautifully, but did so in an extremely tight window of rehearsal. […] The music was very challenging, and one of the pieces had only one or two students on each part, demanding a very high degree of musical independence. So to hear them play so well with so many factors working against them definitely exceeded my best hopes for what they could do in such limited preparation time. It was lovely!”
So, we hosted this orchestra event and it went well and why exactly is this a big deal? Does it mean big things for the school and district or will we have to wait a while longer? Well, this probably wasn’t the big first step everyone wanted to be getting back into the swing of things but it’s certainly a step back to being normal. After some time to process how the event went, Mr. Liss gave his feelings on where this District Honor Orchestra event will lead,
“I think all of us are doing exactly what we should and can be doing within our programs, given the restrictions in place. I hope that as we move towards a return to full in-person learning, we will be able to meet more with our clubs, and also (knock on wood) have some kind of more traditional concert experience for our students by the end of the year.
Sharing music with a live audience is a beautiful thing, but even if that opportunity doesn’t come to pass, I know we’ll continue to be flexible and creative, developing unique ways for our students to gain authentic musical experience (like our current recording projects) while showcasing their learning to the world.”