Music Department Hits the Highest Note at County Festival

Each group in Blake’s Music Department took a trip to Walter Johnson and Rockville High School for this year’s High School Orchestra and Band Adjudications on March 3 and 5, 2020. 

More commonly known as County Festival, the Adjudications are a qualifying round for State Finals. Each group received impressive scores; which is on a one to five scale, with one being superior and five being unsatisfactory. 

The Concert Orchestra came away with straight twos, or excellent’s, while Concert Band and Symphonic Orchestra received a one and two twos. Congratulations to the Symphonic Band, who received superior ratings on all three pieces. 

Symphonic Band and Concert Orchestra Teacher Phil Barnes expresses his pride in the band. He says, “They played to the best of their abilities on stage and represented our program really well.” 

The preparation process starts months in advance, with music selection beginning in January. The directors receive a state list of music they are able to choose from. He adds, “We make it a collaboration with the students in terms of trying to pick music that both we like and we feel is a good learning experience for the kids.”

“I always try to do a classical piece and a modern work,” says Symphonic Orchestra and Concert Band Teacher  Jonathan Eising. “I have to assess the ensemble’s ability level to determine what grade level music to attempt.” 

“We’ve never taken a grade 6,” he adds. “I could not be more proud of this year’s orchestra.” 

Each piece of music is graded on a one to six scale, with one being the easiest and six being a college-level arrangement. The Symphonic Orchestra took the challenge and performed a grade six piece for the first time. 

Concert Mistress senior Jasmine Voon is happy with the Symphonic Orchestra’s performance of such a challenging piece. “I’m proud of our orchestra,” she says. “I personally believe we deserved a higher score.”

Each judge possesses high expectations for every portion. “Phrasing the piece properly in accordance to the style of the piece, especially slow ones [is challenging],” she adds. “They’re super nit-picky about tempo and dynamics.” 

“They’re listening the whole time,” says Mr. Barnes. “They speak into a tape recorder, providing comments.” 

Despite the pressure to perform, the Festival isn’t all about the judge’s scrutiny. “I enjoy getting the chance to get out of the building with the kids,” Mr. Barnes adds. “There’s that social aspect where the kids get the chance to bond with each other, and we get… to bond with them a little bit.” 

Beyond the Symphonic Band and Orchestra’s success, the County Festival season is yet to finish.  Chorus students will be performing March 13, so stay tuned for an update.