The Ann Arbor Public Schools had the joy of returning to the historic Hill Auditorium for Orchestra Day/Night this week. Students from Ann Arbor Open, A2 STEAM, Clague, Forsythe, Huron, Pioneer, Scarlett, Skyline, Slauson and Tappan all had the opportunity to perform throughout the day and evening.
The typical Orchestra Night event was stretched out throughout the day to ensure distancing was possible, but family members were allowed to attend and offered the opportunity to watch a video of the performance remotely if they preferred.
Pioneer Orchestra Director Jonathan Glawe says it’s always special for students to get the chance to perform at Hill Auditorium. “Hill auditorium is an historic venue that you know people around the world come by and love to play here and we love to be here,” Glawe says. “It’s right in our back yard and it feels really intimate on stage and musicians connect with the crowd and it’s a really, really special feeling.”
While it’s exciting for students to perform at Hill, Tappan Orchestra Director Joseph Alcocer says his younger students took well to the challenge of making their first performance in front of a live audience at such an historic location. “They walked in and they were like this is intimidating, this is fantastic,” Alcocer says. “Our seventh grade students were fifth graders two years ago. They’ve never had a concert like this before, like they’ve had one in-person concert, live streamed, no audience. This is the first time they played for an audience.”
The amazing talent of AAPS students is on display at Orchestra Day/Night, but the event also serves as a way for middle school students to connect with, learn from and be inspired by high school orchestra teachers and students. Quentin Brydon is a Pioneer 12th grader and plays the violin. He hopes the current middle school students have a similar experience as he has with Orchestra Night over the years. “I think orchestra night in middle school was kind of, you didn’t know really what was happening. You kind of come into it you’re like ‘Oh my gosh this is a lot of people’ and you come out of feeling really inspired by what the bigger kids are doing. So I left that really motivated and came to Pioneer and was wanting to pay that forward.”
Brydon adds the setting at Hill Auditorium with the other students there leads to an amazing event. “Really the magic comes from having the other orchestras watch you and get to share what you have been working on in such a fantastic space,” Brydon says. “I think all of the orchestras kind of came alive in a way that doesn’t happen at rehearsals or even during performances at their school.”
Slauson Orchestra Director Sara Gibson says it’s also nice that some former students were able to perform with current middle schoolers. “Having some Pioneer alumni join us too, it just made a huge family atmosphere to bring us all together again and it was a beautiful, beautiful occasion. Just so excited for the kids to be able to perform for a live audience.”
Noted American composer Kenji Bunch flew in to participate in the event as well. Pioneer’s Symphony Orchestra performed his piece, Supermaximum. Having the composer there may have been a bit intimidating for Pioneer’s Orchestra, but Brydon says they followed the directions of Glawe and made sure they didn’t sell the piece short. “We had a really great time with it,” Brydon says. “That piece is so much fun to put together, there are so many unique interesting things. It was a great experience and I’m really looking forward to what he at least thought of it as well.”
Forsythe Middle School will get a similar experience later this spring of knowing the composer saw the video of their performance of his work. They performed a piece called The Enchanted Forest by Adrian Gordon, who will be working with the students in the coming weeks.