MHS Chamber Orchestra to compete in Virginia festival

By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Thu., Mar. 14, 2013
(L-r) Sam Iacobellis and Bryan Frankovitch will be attending their fourth adjudication festival in April. Photos by Christian Mysliwiec.
(L-r) Sam Iacobellis and Bryan Frankovitch will be attending their fourth adjudication festival in April. Photos by Christian Mysliwiec.

For the seventh year, the Manchester High School Chamber Orchestra will be competing in a judged competition. This year, the Festival of Music competition will be held in Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va., and will take place from Thursday, April 25, to Sunday, April 28.

The orchestra will be judged on its performance by three judges. According to Carol Maas, MHS music teacher and orchestra conductor, what makes an adjudication so much more than a competition is the fact that judges do not just give scores, they give their professional advice. “One of the judges will come up on the stage and does a workshop with the students,” said Maas. “He gives his expertise and works with the students. So it's like a teaching moment.”

For Sam Iacobellis and Bryan Frankovitch, both seniors and violin players, this will be their fourth time attending. “We've worked most of the year on some of this music,” said Iacobellis. “It's the culmination of all our hard work.”

For high school students, this is a great opportunity to meet musicians from many different states. “It's a great atmosphere,” said Iacobellis. “After you play, there's always such a relief to know that you've worked so hard.”

When Iacobellis and Frankovitch were freshmen, they sat at the back of the orchestra. Now, they are first and second chair. This is an enormous source of pride, especially as they assume the seats of musicians they have admired from past years.

At the festival, the orchestra will play a warm-up piece, followed by the two adjudicated pieces. For their warm-up, MHS students will be performing an arrangement from the film, “Amadeus.” For their adjudicated pieces, they will play “Bylina,” a contemporary piece, and “The Blacksmith,” a modernized arrangement based on a traditional English folk song.

When being judged, presentation is key, and first impressions make all the difference. That is why the MHS orchestra focuses on all aspects of their performance, including the warm-up. “Even though it's technically not part of the evaluation, we treat it like it is. It has some impact because it's their first impression,” said Frankovitch. “It puts a taste in their mouth of what the performance will be like.”

For the last six years, the MHS Orchestra has received a “superior” rating, the highest award, at the competition. But with many of the star musicians from past years graduated and gone, this year's group of students has the difficult task of following in their footsteps and living up to their high standards.

“We've lost a lot of great musicians last year,” said Frankovitch. “But I think this year we've stepped up and are ready to live up to what we've done in the past few years.” Iacobellis and Frankovitch have known MHS orchestra alumni – cellists, violists, bass players and violinists – who went on to study their respective instruments at colleges with prestigious music programs, like the Hartt School of Music.

Iacobellis believes that the orchestra is poised to do the same great performance that it has done in the past. “It was very talent-based before. This time, it's a lot more hard work,” he said. “That makes it even more special. We've had to work extra hard.” He gives a lot credit to the section leaders, and their conductor. “If you ask me, we sound the same,” he said.

As for the competition, the orchestra is ready for the challenge.

“You're going to see other schools that have strong backgrounds in music, and others that don't. It's kinda cool comparing yourself to everybody,” said Frankovitch. “You never know what you're going to come up against.”

Iacobellis notes that while this may not be known locally, MHS has a high reputation in the music community. “Manchester High School is a school that is known for music,” said Iacobellis. “I don't think many people realize how talented many of these musicians are.” Many students are involved in other musical groups, such as the Choral and Handbell Choir, and they are successful in competitions as well. “It's a testament to our department and our teachers,” he said.

Maas has confidence in this year's orchestra. While they're a younger group, she notes they have very strong section leaders. “They're very motivated kids, they're working hard, and we have some nice pieces,” she said. “I think they're going to do very well.”

The public has a unique chance to hear the pieces the MHS Orchestra will be performing at the Adjudication Festival during a concert to be held Sunday, March 24, at 3 p.m., at Trinity Covenant Church, located at 302 Hackmatack St. in Manchester. Tickets are $6 each and will be available at the door.

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