A big yellow busload of Orcas Island High School musicians journeyed to Bellingham High School on Saturday morning, Jan. 28, to compete in the all-day San Juan Music Educators Association (SJMEA) regional solo/ensemble competitions. By Sunday night, two OIHS students had earned top awards.
In solo violin competition, sophomore Paris Wilson played the first movement of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4 and placed first, meaning she will advance to statewide competition – or “go to state” – on April 29 at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, where winners from Washington’s 22 regional contests will compete for first, second and third places in the state.
In French Horn competition on Jan. 28, sophomore Tim Jenson was awarded second place or “first alternate to state” (if the first-place soloist is unable to attend), for his performance of Nocturno for Horn in F, Op. 7 by Franz Strauss.
According to OIHS Strings Director Pamela Wright and OIHS Band Director Darren Dix, achieving these top awards is really significant because Orcas students are competing against schools that are much larger. All three Bellingham high schools, for example, have more than 1,000 students each, compared to OIHS enrollment of 134.
In recent years, Orcas High School Strings and Band ensembles have competed well with these larger schools, sometimes scoring high enough to go to state but not eligible to advance because SJMEA rules require that all musicians in an ensemble be enrolled in grades 9 through 12 to advance. OIHS Strings and Band have welcomed younger musicians with the talent and desire to participate in the music program.
Other OIHS soloists who participated in this year’s regional event in Bellingham were Michael Chesher, viola, and Destiny Wright, flute. The 10-member Orcas Island Strings performed chamber-music style (without a conductor). There were also performances by three Orcas band-instrument and percussion ensembles – Shiny Metals and Wood Whistles, Brasstastic Sextet and Stop the Marimba; and three string ensembles – La Blue Jays in the Sky, Jungle Jamboree and Mario and Friends.
Regarding the upcoming WMEA/WIAA State Solo and Ensemble Contest in April, “This event provides the opportunity for the finest of Washington’s high school music students to hear each other,” according to the Washington Music Teachers Educators Association (WMEA) and Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA).
The Orcas community can hear some of these talented young musicians play at the annual Music Advocacy Group’s (MAG) concert at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 5, in the Old Gym at the Orcas School. Orcas school musicians will perform, along with the Orcas Choral Society, Orcas Island Community Band and Island Sinfonia. Admission is by donation and all donations go to MAG to support the music program at the Orcas Public Schools.