Westfield High's guitar ensembles and chamber and concert orchestras hit all the right notes, April 16, at the Fiesta-Val competition in Evanston, Ill.
This national event was held at Northwestern University, and Westfield's young musicians swept every category in which they competed. All totaled, they came home with a dozen trophies, several plaques and definite bragging rights.
AND COURTESY of the chamber orchestra and guitar ensemble, the Bulldogs also won the event's Grand Championship award. It's given to the school with the highest rating of any two ensembles.
But that's not all. Westfield's guitar director, Ken Hall, and orchestra director, Greg Rupert, received the Instrumental Music Directors' Award of Distinction. According to their plaques, it was "in recognition of a notable contribution to musical excellence."
"It was very cool," said Hall. "It makes you feel like you might know what you're doing."
Westfield brought three guitar groups — 36 students in all — in the intermediate, jazz and advanced ensembles, competing against several high schools from around the country. Each group performed for judges in different categories and was scored according to particular criteria.
THE ADVANCED guitar ensemble garnered 97 out of a possible 100 points, and each Westfield guitar group captured first place with a superior rating. The jazz ensemble won the trophy for Best Overall Jazz Group at the festival, and the advanced group won the championship trophy for Best Overall Guitar Ensemble.
Students Peter Douskalis and Josh Motafches performed improvised solos with the jazz ensemble, and each won trophies for Outstanding Soloist. (Last Saturday, April 30, Douskalis also came in second in the Fourth Annual Alexandria Performing Arts Music Competition, against students in other Fairfax County schools. He won in the improvisation category for his rendition of "Autumn Leaves").
At Fiesta-Val, each guitar ensemble played three songs. The intermediate group performed "Now, Let Us to the Bagpipes Sound" by Bach, "Finlandia" and "Sakura," a traditional Japanese song. The jazz ensemble played "Satin Doll" by Duke Ellington, "Autumn Leaves" by Johnny Mercer and "Oriental Shuffle." The advanced group performed "Cancion Sin Fronteras," a Mexican folk song, "Every Breath You Take" by the Police, and "Entre."
Actually, Hall wasn't surprised that his students did so well because "these kids are great — I can tell by listening to them. There's a lot of talent here."
THE SAME is true of Westfield's orchestra students, who vied against four other schools, all from Virginia. The 50-member concert orchestra competed in Division 4 (based on difficulty levels from 1-6, with 6 being the hardest). It received an excellent rating and won first place in its division.
The Bulldogs' 40-member chamber orchestra competed in Division 6 and captured first place with a superior rating. And, said Rupert, "Among the five orchestras [competing], it received the highest point total and rating to win the Best Orchestra Overall award, regardless of division or class."
In addition, the chamber orchestra's cello section received the Outstanding String Section award. That orchestra's concert master — first chair, first violin — Bethany Morris received the award for Outstanding String Solo.
At the All State Band and Orchestra event, April 9, at Oakton High, she received the Sidney Berg Scholarship awarded by the Virginia Band and Orchestra Directors Association. It's a $2,000/year award for four years, and Morris plans to use it at Boston University where she'll be majoring in music education.
At Fiesta-Val, Westfield's chamber orchestra performed "Serenade for String Orchestra" by Ernst von Dohnanyi, "Two Norwegian Airs" by Edward Grieg and "The Overture from Don Juan" by Gluck. The concert orchestra played "The Royal Guards" from "The Knightsbridge Suite," "The Overture to Lucio Silla" by Mozart and "The Battle Hymn Fantasia."
"I'm very pleased with how things went," said Rupert. "The kids worked really hard this year and played great. They try to make music — not just play the notes — and evoke emotions out of the people that are listening."