- Editor's Note: This is a republication of School District 101's Friday feature, distributed by BPS Messenger. The feature is so well-written, we thought we'd present to you for your reading enjoyment. Congratulations, Rotolo Middle School students!
When Kristin Wolford learned that she was among 11 Rotolo Middle School band students nominated to perform at the VanderCook College of Music Middle-Level HonorFest in Chicago last weekend, it gave her the extra vote of confidence she needed to perform.
“I thought it was pretty cool and it kind of gave me confidence that I was going to be able to play the songs,” Wolford said. “At the beginning, the songs were really hard. But, I was like, I can do this. I was chosen to do this; so I know I can.”
Simon Balisi also got a confidence boost from being given the opportunity to further develop his skills and share his musical talent at the all-day music festival, which featured more than 300 middle school students from the Chicago land area.
“It makes you feel like you’re a lot better than you maybe thought you were. And that helps to give a confidence boost for playing something more challenging than what we do at school,” Balisi said.
According to Keith Ozsvath, a band director at Rotolo Middle School, HonorFest was an outstanding opportunity to become a better musician, meet other students, and learn from top-notch music educators.
Ozsvath, along with fellow directors Sherry Reiss and Rob Buckley, nominated the following students to participate in the event: Lezly Acevedo, Zoe Akers, Simon Balisi, Nora Carr,Andrew Hunter, Mary Jo Martin, Evan Nicely, Veronica Pronitcheva, Jacob Skomer, Christian Tamar and Kristin Wolford.
The students were nominated based on their advanced music skills and their willingness to learn and further develop those skills.
And according to Jacob Skomer, their focus and excitement contributed to the learning process.
“We got to learn a lot because everyone was focused and everyone was excited about the music that we got to play,” Skomer said.
During the festival, the students performed in a large ensemble of singers and musicians directed by accomplished arrangers and composers in the music field.
“It was really cool because my band was conducted by a famous composer and it was really fun because we got to do a wide variety of songs,” Skomer said.
Balisi also enjoyed the opportunity to learn new songs with other musicians who were focused on honing their craft.
“The songs were more challenging and we were around lots of people that like to play music instead of people that dork around. So we actually got to learn new songs and some new things. So, I thought it was really fun,” Balisi said.
According to the Skomer, the rehearsal at HonorFest lasted for six hours, which presented another type of challenge.
“I play the saxophone, so my lips were getting really tired,” Skomer explained. “One of the songs we played had a lot of loud dynamics, so my lips got a whole lot more tired than when we were playing songs with the softer dynamics.”
Andrew Hunter faced similar challenges.
“While playing my trumpet, my mouthpiece was pressed against my lips for a long time, so my lips got tired out by the end of the day. It was really challenging,” Hunter said.
Hunter, who performed in the 2012 and 2013 HonorFest music festivals, said he enjoyed the performances in spite of experiencing mouth fatigue.
“It’s a fun thing to do and gives you good practice with learning sight reading and learning it all in just one go,” Hunter said.
Following their rehearsal, the students showcased their talents by performing the songs they had learned for their family and friends.
Wolford’s family was among the many families that enjoyed the performance.
“My parents were really excited and they enjoyed the pieces that we played. They were really happy that I was able to do this,” Wolford said.
Balisi’s parents were also impressed with their work.
“They were really impressed and felt that after one day of practicing we sounded better than we did in a regular concert,” Balisi said.
Skomer shared similar sentiments.
“Sometimes it will take people a really long time to get through a song,” Skomer said. But our director said that we had done three weeks worth of practicing in one day and performed really well. It was really amazing.”