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High school musicians improve skill with Orchestra Invitational

BY SAMANTHA GENTRY | FEBRUARY 24, 2011 7:20 AM

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Several high-school musicians sit on stage, instrument in hands. Taking cues from the director, they begin to play a piece, using techniques they have learned earlier that day.

At the end of their performance, the group switches places with members of the audience from high schools in Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, and Iowa.

Five hundred high-school students have the opportunity to visit the University of Iowa to perform, be critiqued, and take classes from faculty for a two-day musical event this weekend. UI School of Music faculty will present the Orchestra Invitational Gala at 7 p.m. Friday in the Riverside Recital Hall. Admission is free.

The music school will host the gala for the fifth year, and it will feature three groups of faculty artists who will perform and teach the students. The faculty Woodwind Trio, featuring Nicole Esposito on flute, Andrew Parker on oboe, and Maurita Mead on clarinet, will open the show. Following them, the Maia Quartet will play, and the UI Chamber Orchestra will conclude the show.

During the concert, there will also be duet performances, one by UI cello Associate Professor Anthony Arnone, who will play a piece by Jean Barriere with UI bass Associate Professor Volkan Orhon.

On Saturday, Arnone will teach technique classes to high-school students in which he will work on technique, how to use the bow in different ways, and how to practice effectively.

“My goal is to help them have more fun and better themselves with their instruments,” Arnone said.

Many high-school orchestra directors will also attend the event to improve their skills.

Miriam Edgar, the orchestra director at St. Louis Park Junior High in Minnesota, hopes her students will act as sponges, absorbing many ideas and suggestions to improve their skills.

“I personally believe that receiving objective feedback is not only a skill that needs to be developed as a musician but is also the same as receiving a valuable gift,” Edgar said. “Gaining perspective from prestigious musicians about what others hear and see from our performance is often eye-opening to the performers and will help us seek out areas that we need to improve on and perhaps be aware of.”

Kathryn Borghesani, the orchestra teacher at Whitefish Bay High School in Wisconsin, attended the gala for the first time in 2009 and was very impressed.

“I think the University of Iowa runs one of the most well-organized, beneficial, and excellent clinics,” she said. “It’s one of the best I’ve been a part of, and the kids had a fabulous time. They have been anxious to come back ever since.”

Whether the students plan on continuing to play their instrument in college or not, many teachers from the high schools think it’s a great opportunity to expose the students to what the UI has to offer.

Professor William LaRue Jones, the director of UI orchestral studies, agrees.

“It is a great opportunity to show off Iowa, and for us, it is very important to let students from other cities and states see what our campus has to offer,” he said. “It will not only make them aware as musicians, it will also allow them to consider Iowa as one of their choices.”


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