First All-Strings Concert May 18

A first-of-its-kind All-Strings concert will be presented by the Orcas Island Schools on Thursday, May 18, at 7 p.m. in the high school gym. Featuring 57 student musicians from ages 7 to 18, as well as dancers, this concert offers a chance to see the full breadth and depth of the strings program at the Orcas Schools.

The concert is presented in collaboration with Monique Mead, violinist and Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival artistic ddvisor, and Abbey Roemer, Mead’s graduate assistant at Carnegie Mellon University. Talented student dancers will share their artistry by interpreting several of the pieces in dance.

“This will be our first-ever All-Strings concert,” said Pamela Wright, director of strings at Orcas Island Schools. “The Orcas community will have a chance to see the whole program. It’s an opportunity as well, for our beginning strings students to see what they can aspire to, and for our high school ensemble to see how far they have come.”

The theme for the May 18 concert is “Waltzing Through the Ages.” Mead and Roemer participated in organizing the concert, including selecting pieces from multiple musical eras. The program will include the High School Strings performance of Bach’s “Badinerie” from Orchestral Suite No. 2, a Telemann Minuet from the 6th Grade Strings, the Middle School Strings performance of Handel’s Sarabande, and the 5th Graders’ Vittles Valse. The youngest strings students will play Mozart’s “Twinkle” and join in with all strings on a Brahms Waltz. Mead and Roemer, with Mead’s son Tino, will play Navarra by Sarasate.

In preparation for the concert, Mead and Roemer have conducted regular lessons with the middle school and high school ensembles by Skype. Wright says the Skype lessons have been invaluable for improving the Orcas students’ bowing technique and other skills. “I am a trained music educator,” said Wright, “but there are so many details of bowing technique for improving tone, coloring, intonation and phrasing that Monique and Abbey are able to teach. I truly believe that their instruction was a major factor in the high scores we received at regional contest this winter.”

Orcas Island High School Strings received a “superior” or “1” rating at the SJMEA Contest in January, which is the highest rating an ensemble can receive. “You could hear a pin drop when our kids played,” said Wright. After the Orcas group played, in fact, the judge simply sat back and said, “I have nothing to fix.”

Wright will start a new session of Beginning Strings in September. The class is open to all students in second to fourth grades. A trip to Seattle to play along with the Seattle Symphony is planned for 3rd through 5th grade next spring. And the Orcas High School Strings will be returning to Disneyland next year to work with a studio clinician and perform on the main stage at the park.

This is the first of two concerts by Orcas student musicians this spring. Both are free and open to the public. An All-Band concert featuring Darren Dix’s band students from 5th grade through high school will take place on June 1, at 7 p.m. at Orcas Center.