5/6 stringfest

Three students from Charles F. Patton Middle School performed in the District 12 StringFest this past Monday at E.T. Richardson Middle School under the direction of Miku Shiota-Rosenbaum.  These three students came together with other 5th and 6th grade students from 30 schools in District 12, rehearsed for close to 7 hours, and performed a concert for parents and families Monday evening.

Miku is the conductor of Delaware County Young Musicians’ Orchestra, but I knew her as my stand partner during my brief involvement with the Delaware County Orchestra back in 2009. At that time, a former theory teacher of mine was conducting the Delaware County Orchestra and had recruited me to help fill out the first violin section for a few concerts that season. Miku played violin in the ensemble and also knew the conductor from college years, though she was primarily trained as a pianist.

Students prepared and performed the following works from Classical and Popular genres:

  • Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen arr. Robert Longfield
  • Adagio Cantabile from Pathetique Sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven arr. Carrie Lane Gruselle
  • Bésame Mucho by Consuelo Velazquez arr. James Kazik
  • Shake it Off by Taylor Swift arr. Larry Moore
  • Country Wedding from “The Moldau” by Bedrich Smetana arr. Sandra Dackow
  • The Star-Spangled Banner by John Stafford Smith arr. Sandra Dackow
  • Pizzicato Polka by Johann Strauss Jr. arr. Robert McCashin
  • The London Symphony: Themes from Symphony No. 104, 1st Movement by Franz Joseph Haydn arr. Jeremy Woolstenhulme

56 StringFest 2017

I still feel new when it comes to the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association system, but I’m slowly beginning to understand the differences in procedures between these PMEA festivals and the NYSSMA festivals that I am more familiar with. PMEA District 12 serves students and music educators in Philadelphia, Chester, and Delaware Counties, which makes it sound a lot like NYSSMA Area All-State, but the selection process, competition, and resulting concerts are much more similar to the NY’s All-County orchestras. Selection for StringFest began in the late Fall with a teacher recommendation form, and everything was done online. The number of students invited per school depends on the string program enrollment at that particular school, and acceptance may have little to do with the student’s actual ability. Questions posed by the host director addressed topics ranging from a student’s comfort using vibrato and ability to adjust bowings to how responsible they are in school orchestra. Surprisingly, there were no questions about the type of solo study a student may be engaged in or statements about the level of mastery expected at the StringFest. I was very happy that the three students who represented Patton were also some of my strongest students in the 6th grade, but I worry that this PMEA selection system doesn’t encourage individual initiative and doesn’t promote healthy competition with the school programs. It also places a lot of weight on the teacher’s recommendation which has the potential to be quite subjective.

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