High school orchestras from Southwest play at Ardrey


By Jayson Burns

Whispering voices are the only sounds left in the theater as the stagehands finish setting up the rows of chairs and music stands.

After a long moment, a group of students dressed in black and carrying their polished instruments enter from the wings and take their place. The stage seems at first to be large and a bit overwhelming, but this proves to be useful to the musicians as the acoustics strengthen their notes as they tune their instruments.

Finally, the conductor appears on stage and organizes them with a swing of a baton.

This is how a typical orchestra begins, but that is, of course, only from the audience’s perspective. On Nov. 3, NAU held the second annual NAU Orchestra Festival in Ardrey Auditorium, bringing musicians from California, Nevada, New Mexica and Arizona high schools and middle schools alongside the NAU Symphony Orchestra. The festival was brought to a close with one final concert.

For the first half of the concert, high school students from both in and out of state performed a select piece of music ranging from slow and calm to fast and booming. While there was some variation, many of the bands focused on a string section of violins, violas, harps and cellos.

After a short intermission, the NAU Symphony Orchestra took center stage and played for the second half of the festival with soloist Elena Urioste, “a rising star,” according to conductor Nicholas Ross. Recipient of several international awards, Urioste is an acclaimed violinist whose first appearance was at the age of 13 with the Philidelphia Orchestra and has gone to play at Carnegie Hall and appear on the cover of Symphony magazine.

Among the NAU musicians is freshman violin performance major Veronica Rinner.

“It’s so magical, playing,” Rinner said, “I don’t know an intelligent way to say it. It’s just magical.”

While orchestra may not seem like the most competitive of pursuits, Rinner is adamant about the challenges it brings.

“In orchestra, no matter what you do, no matter how good you are, there’s always someone better,” Rinner said. “It gives you a competitive edge.”

Performing alongside Urioste has been a very beneficial experience to the musicians of the NAU Symphony Orchestra; it has helped them hone in their craft.

“She was fantastic. It was so much fun,” Rinner said. “It was a great learning experience.”

“With a soloist, you don’t know what tempo she’s going to use,” said senior music education and performance major Wesley Hunter, a violist. “You have to be really flexible in order to adjust with what she’s playing.”

Hunter, like many other musicians, has a difficult time deciding who or what his biggest influence is.

“I come  from a musical family,” Hunter said. “I got a lot through my dad.”

Musicians like Rinner and Hunter were very pleased with how the festival turned out and find such events to be another way to better their performances.

“Part of it is festivals like this,” Hunter said. “You learn new music and hear how it’s supposed to be played.”


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