Best Scores Ever at State Festival
by Chris Yau '18 and Tri-M Music Honor Society Communications Director, with Embrick Eyles '19
It all began with District Festival. Every year, the Upper School Concert Band prepares three pieces for District Festival, where two out of the three pieces are adjudicated by three judges. The judges rate our performances from 1 to 5 (1 being superior and 5 being the worst). Next, the band goes into the sight-reading room and plays a piece that they have never seen before. A judge also rates that piece.
This year, the returning band members were nervous because last year we played magnificently in our prepared pieces and thought we did well in sight reading, yet we did not score as high as we had hoped and ended up with an overall rating of 2. We did not get to go to state festival and were all disappointed and shocked at the result.
This year we received an overall rating of 1 at District Festival and qualified to move on to the State Festival, and celebrated with a pancake breakfast during class the week after! Still, a lot of us were not sure we could pull off a rating of 1 at State Festival. Many people became restless in class and the balance of sounds in our music started to become disrupted, as each section of the band tried to over play another. Our teacher and conductor Ms. Stephanie Mayer addressed this during rehearsals, stressing intonation, style, tone, and rhythm. She also reviewed with us the comments from judges at District Festival, and as the State Festival approached, we all began to settle down and really take it all in to prepare for what was to come.
The day of the State Festival, at Morgan State University in Baltimore we were all nervous. We unloaded our equipment in the auditorium and waited outside for our turn in the warm-up room. Constant talking alleviated tension, despite Ms. Mayer and Ms. Terwilliger's attempts to silence everyone. Ms. Mayer told us that the warm stage would cause us to go sharp and the percussion sound would be extremely amplified. Walking onto the stage, we sat down in our sections. Ms. Mayer raised her baton, and we began to play the first notes of our first piece, "Utah Beach." Throughout playing both pieces, I had no idea if my clarinet was too soft or too loud. We all followed Ms. Mayer's conducting until the last piece was finished. Standing and smiling with our eyebrows raised, we walked across the stage and headed to the sight-reading room.
There was only a quiet murmur of voices when we walked into the sight-reading room. After percussion set up for sight-reading and the music was passed out, Ms. Mayer read the music, reminded us of accidentals and tricky rhythms and we sang our notes. When we finished performing, the judge remarked that we did a good job, but messed up the key signature in some places and the rhythm was not right. Leaving for the bus, I thought we had surely gotten a 2. Disappointment and frustration plagued me as I helped pack instruments back onto the bus and dropped the gong onto the asphalt.
All of us boarded the bus and waited for the news. As always, the seniors boarded the bus last and tell us that we received a rating of 2. Every year the seniors trick the band into thinking we obtained a rating of 2, even if we get a 1, except last year we actually earned did earn that 2 at District. As Henry Feigen '17 told the band that we got a 2, everyone became silent. I started to believe him. I started to think we failed to get a superior at State Festival. But towards the end of the monologue, I saw Ms. Mayer crack a smile, and Henry yelled out the good news. Ms. Mayer tried to hide in the back not to spoil the surprise.
We got a 1 from every judge.
Everyone on the bus went wild. We started yelling for our success and our achievement. Ms. Mayer said this may have been the best the band has ever done.
We sang the Bullis alma mater when we got back on campus, and in our excitement, took this photo to remember this time for years to come. This experience is the reason why the Bullis Concert Band is the most talented, creative, quirky band I have ever been a part of.