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February 14, 2024 / Multiple Schools

Students shine at Solo and Ensemble Contest

On February 10, Jackson and Jefferson Middle School student musicians participated in the annual Villa Park Solo & Ensemble Contest. This year’s event took place at Jefferson Middle School.

At the event, student musicians from Jefferson, Jackson, and 5th graders throughout the District had an opportunity to perform in a small group or solo setting in front of a judge. Judges who sat for the performances included directors and private teachers specializing in the instrument for which they were adjudicating.

“The judges listen carefully to correct notes, rhythms, tone quality, dynamics, articulations, and musicality of each performance,” said Jackson Band Director Joe Koppel. “The judge then assigns an overall rating similar to receiving a grade on a test.”

Performers who earned a “Number 1” or “Number 2” rating earned a ribbon and medal, which they can wear at future concerts.

Unlike most performances, most participants perform without a conductor or music teacher guiding the process. Students must learn not only their own part but how to match it with the piano accompanists or other ensemble members.

“All these pieces make the Villa Park Solo & Ensemble Contest a tremendous opportunity for performance and learning,” said Koppel.

Mia Barriga, an 8th-grade student at Jefferson Middle School, performed a vocal ensemble with another Jefferson student.

“Honestly, it was nerve-racking when I first walked into the room, but once we began, I felt better.”

Barriga and her friend performed “From the Start” by Laufey and chose the song because they were both already familiar with it.

The pair would arrive early at school to practice and sometimes practice during lunch. Barriga said that by practicing, “eventually the piece came together.”

Barriga and her friend mainly received positive feedback. “The judge told us we had good tone and a nice voice. The only negative feedback was that we needed to work on tempo and keeping it together because, at times, one of us would speed up or slow down.”

Barriga was relieved when the performance was over and even more so after she received her scores, all 1s.

“You’re there to do your best and have fun. It was an enjoyable experience, and I’m glad Jefferson does this because not all schools offer students this opportunity.”

Olivia Peterson, a clarinet player and 6th-grade student from Jackson Middle School, said her solo performance went really well, primarily due to her preparation.

“It was very tough, but we spent lots of time practicing. We had group practices and individually with the accompanist,” said Peterson. “Overall, it was a very enjoyable time.”

Peterson said she was a little nervous beforehand but that she knew her piece and knew she was going to do well. She said she plans to continue playing clarinet through high school.

Peterson’s advice for others who may be performing a solo piece in front of judges?

“Do your best, and think of it as you are practicing alone. It’s ok to let yourself loose, don’t be so tensed up. Otherwise, you’re more likely to make mistakes.”

Judges completed a seven-category rubric that reflected each performance. Categories included:

1. Rhythmic Accuracy
2. Note Accuracy
3. Tone Quality & Intonation
4. Dynamics & Balance
5. Fluency of Technique
6. Interpretation/Style/Tempo
7. Stage Presentation and Appearance

Judges assigned a rating in each category and each performance received an overall rating based on the quality of the performance. Students also received written and verbal comments on parts of the performance that were particularly strong and suggestions for improvement. Each student received a medal for their performance.

Thank you to all our volunteers who helped make the event run smoothly and to our dedicated D45 music, band and orchestra directors. A big thank you to our judges who participated, including:

BAND
Katie Pierce
Eric Goluska
Steve Klaus
Chuck Garland
Rich Paluch

ORCHESTRA
Cindy Toika
Christina Dickenson
Beth Myers

CHOIR
Jessica Tatevosian
Michelle Cervantes