Amid a normal year, many RHS music students often take advantage of many county, regional, and state festivals that are held on an annual basis. On top of the enticing Maroon & White festival (which is operating virtually this year), many band students audition for All-County Band, while both band and orchestra students often audition for the NJSMA Regional Festival, and based on qualification, some audition and place into the NJ All State Orchestra/Band.
While COVID has put off those typical events, Arts ED NJ presented a new and innovative event which allowed high school band and orchestra students to submit virtual videos for adjudications. Offering medal prizes to top finishers, the NJ State Solo & Ensemble Festival was judged by top musicians across the state and region, all giving constructive and helpful tips to students willing to improve.
Choosing pieces from a list compiled of standard works by classical composers, alongside newer works especially for jazz musicians in the band program, many students submit new videos of pieces they are learning, or old videos of themselves of virtual performances filmed during the pandemic. On top of this, students were also eligible to perform in a trio, quartet, or small ensemble, also being creatively judged and scored by adjudicators. Pieces were judged based on musicality, sound quality, and technique. Violist Ludia Kim (11th) who received a gold ranking commented, “I think Arts Ed NJ created a decent program while giving the opportunity for any musician, whether they are a beginner or advanced, to submit a video and receive very helpful feedback from professionals.”
Six RHS orchestra students including Ludia participated in the festival, while seven students in the band program also took part. Statewide, more than 1000 students participated, a huge success for the program that will hopefully take place in the years to come. It was so successful that NJ Arts is planning to run a second virtual festival in this spring alone, happening during the coming months. The festival was met by great success among students. Anya Skulskaia, violinist (9th) said, ¨The festival was a gifting opportunity to share music with the professional music community. The festival symbolized the unstoppable power of music that has been expressed as musicians have found ways to share their art, overcoming the obstacles of the pandemic and isolation.”
Overall, the NJ State Solo & Ensemble Festival was a great success, and it is with great hope that many RHS music students take advantage of this amazing opportunity!
Graphic: Isabella Harelick