The joy +pain+numbness+agony+exhaustion of music

February 05, 2008|By BRIGITTE GREWE / Pulse Correspondent

All-County Orchestra is a group of talented students in middle school orchestras from all around Washington County. These students were chosen by their orchestra teachers to participate in All-County for about five days of intense practice for a big concert.

The All-County students work extremely hard and put much of their time and effort into their rehearsals to prepare for the concert, which is not just watched by family and friends, but recorded.

The students' journey during All-County is difficult, but satisfying.

A little after the beginning of the school year, students that will participate in All-County are given their music to practice. Some teachers will dedicate part of their class time to work on All-County music. Some teachers go over the music a week or more before the actual All-County rehearsals.

This year, on the first Saturday in January, students prepared themselves for All-County auditions. Two or three orchestra teachers serve as judges; they face away from the students, so students are completely anonymous. You cannot speak and there is silence until you play.


The following Monday at school, the students who auditioned are told which chair they sit at. Chairs are basically rankings on how good musicians play and it tells you where you sit at the concert and at rehearsals.

The best chair for a violin is concertmaster, who plays first violin. The other orchestra instruments (second violin, viola, cello, and bass) have first and second chairs which are the best chairs. Of course, everyone aims to get a high-ranking chair. 

At the first rehearsal, on Monday, Jan. 14, the students sat at their chairs the first time. The first few rehearsals weren't very good, but everyone was just starting to get used to playing as a whole. By the third rehearsal, everyone started to sound full and musical.

At the third rehearsal, our guest conductor, Steven Czarkowski, arrived. He worked with the students for two two- to three-hour rehearsals and the marathon, seven-hour rehearsal. This was my second year in All-County orchestra and both years, the seven-hour rehearsal has been grueling and painful.

Talking to students during the seven-hour rehearsal, I asked some students how they felt so far about All-County. Tatianna Diz, a seventh-grader from E. Russell Hicks, has been playing viola since sixth grade.

"I was tired, but I'm grateful we did it," she said. "We've worked out some of the kinks."

Cellist George Canova, who also has been playing since sixth grade, said "My fingers felt like they were gonna fall off! Pain." George is an eighth-grader and attends E. Russell Hicks.

Northern Middle School eighth-grader Emily Seiler, said "I feel great but my fingers hurt." Other student's comments were similar: They were in pain; someone's fingers fell asleep; they were tired, etc.

On the day of the concert, Saturday, Jan. 26, student musicians had to meet in the morning for a quick run-through of all the music. That night, the band room at North Hagerstown High School filled with a swarm of people dressed in black and white. There was a final tuning, then each section filed out on the stage.  

We played a total of six pieces -- "Fiddle O' Finnigan," "Deep Sea Fandango," "Medieval Wars," "Dance of the Thunderbolts," "Bio Rhythms" and "Dance of the Samodivi."

"Bio Rhythms" amused the audience by the popping, stomping, clapping, snapping, chest beating, screaming action taking place in it.

It's an honor to be in All-County Orchestra, but it involves a lot of hard work. Overall, the All-County journey was a very interesting one. We ended with a great concert.

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