The Orcas School music program bids farewell to two graduating seniors this year, a band percussionist, Liam Griskey-Watson and strings violinist, Joanne Mietzner. Both have been stellar musicians. Mietzner played in the San Juan Music Educators Association Senior Honor Orchestra. She also played in the Orcas High School Strings group that won first place at the Senior Large Group Orchestra Contest this year, beating groups from much larger schools. Fellow senior Griskey-Watson won a coveted spot in the Pacific Lutheran University Northwest High School Honor Band earlier this year, together with Tim Jenson and Ewan Lister.
Along with ‘goodbyes’ in June come ‘hellos’ to new Band and Strings students. Instrument Zoo, which took place on Tuesday, June 12, has become a tradition and rite of passage for students entering 5th grade at Orcas Elementary. For the next two years, each of them will be learning to play a musical instrument at school. The graduating 4th graders tried out different band and strings instruments to help them decide whether the band or strings program and which instrument, would suit them for 5th- and 6th-grade. For most students, this would be the first time they formally learn to play an instrument for an extended period.
These fourth graders may be even more inspired since their March excursion to Benaroya Hall in Seattle. Along with 3rd and 5th graders, they sang and played recorders with the Seattle Symphony. ‘Oohs’ and ‘ahhhs’ echoed among the Orcas contingent as they stepped into the foyer, and again as they were seated, alongside hundreds of other elementary school students, to watch the Symphony introduce different sections and perform.
The trip was one of the experiences made possible with contributions from Music Advocacy Group, MAG. Annually, MAG makes contributions from its General Fund that more than doubles the school district’s budget for the K-12 school music program. MAG is able to do this mainly through community donations collected at the ‘100 Musicians! 1 Great Cause!’ benefit concert that has taken place in early Spring every year for the last 21 years. This year’s concert raised over $9000.
Last September, a new boost in fundraising came with the establishment of the Joyce Burghardt Excellence In Music Fund, on the occasion of the retirement of Joyce Burghardt, a founding member of MAG and a long-time relentless advocate for music education in Orcas public schools. Four island philanthropists pledged $10,000 in a dollar-for-dollar fundraising challenge, launched in September, that raised over $25,000. This new Fund is distinct from MAG’s General Fund in its focus on grants that promote Orcas’ school music students’ musical excellence and achievement beyond the music classroom.
In December, the Orcas Island Community Foundation’s Holiday Catalog helped MAG raise funds to buy a set of orchestral chimes, considered an essential component of a full percussion section. The chimes, costing almost $4,000, made its public debut at the above-mentioned Spring benefit concert to thank MAG donors and were demonstrated at a recent MAG student awards reception on May 17 in the school cafeteria.
In short, the generous support of school music donors enabled MAG to provide over $19,000 in contributions to school music this year, including:
• Annual contribution of $8,000 for general Music Department needs that helped fund the Seattle Symphony trip.
• A new string bass, a stool, and storage rack for cellos
• A set of orchestral chimes
• 6 Chromebook laptops and the SmartMusic software program that facilitates practice excellence.
• Registration fees for students to attend several invitational music proficiency programs (list of honor bands and events below)
The student awards reception was a heartwarming and inspiring occasion that saw music students and their parents recognized for their achievements at off-island honor orchestras and contests. MAG further recognized the fourteen ‘Music Students of the Month’ between February 2017 and April 2018. These students, many of whom are in elementary and middle school Band and Strings, had been recognized by their music teachers for their passion for music, their positive attitude to mastering a new instrument, and their practice persistence.
The list of honorees were:
Music Students of the Month
Pedro Guerra, T.J. Liblik, Doni Kasperski, Bethany Carter, Alanna Lago, Isabella Douglas, Meg Waage, Nate Smith, Dante Ljubic, Ashling Gordon, Willow White, Itiari Villareal, Ellie Wright, Ava Ashcraft.
SJMEA Senior Honor Orchestra
Skylar Dalusio, Birdie Greening, Joanne Mietzner, Nate Smith, Paris Wilson
SJMEA Solo/Ensemble Contest – Strings
Paris Wilson, 1st place for solo violin; “Superior” rating at state competition
Senior Large Group Orchestra Contest
1st Place – Orcas High School Strings (Skylar Dalusio, Birdie Greening, Joanne Mietzner, Nate Smith, Paris Wilson)
High School Honors Performance at Carnegie Hall
Paris Wilson (appointed Associate Concertmaster)
SJMEA Junior Honor Orchestra
Bethany Carter, Ashling Gordon, Aida Cruz Hernandez, Moose Kinsey, T.J. Liblik, Kai Ross
Middle School Honors Performance at Carnegie Hall
SJMEA Senior Honor Band
Tim Jenson, Ewan Lister
SJMEA Solo/Ensemble Contest – Band
Tim Jenson “first alternate” to State
Western International Band Clinic
Tim Jenson, Ewan Lister
PLU Northwest High School Honor Band
Liam Griskey-Watson, Tim Jenson, Ewan Lister
All-State Wind Ensemble
All-State Wind Symphony
SJMEA Junior Honor Band
Jeff Davis, Finn Rubottom, Willow White
SJMEA Junior Honor Choir
For information about how you can help school music continue to thrive in Orcas public schools and ways to donate or volunteer with MAG, please visit www.OIMAG.org. MAG is a 501(c)(3) organization. All donations are tax deductible.