Chorus and Band Dominate Virginia Beach

By Meghan Byrnes and Morgan Brang

Managing Editor for Production and Assistant Editor for Production

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Excelling in the arts has long been a Jamesville-Dewitt High School tradition, and the music department is no exception. This year, the department, which includes chorus and band, decided to take their talents to a competition in Virginia Beach, VA on April 10-April 13. The stakes were high and the competition intimidating, but J-DHS students held their own and performed better than most students expected to.

Any kid would love to miss two days of school to go to the beach, but for the students who went on the trip, the opportunity was much more than that. Months of tedious preparation led up to one day, and one competition, against some of the most musically talented kids in the nation. “We want to give those kids who are still staying in music (and not taking a study hall) an extra opportunity to do something fun, because they're working so hard in here every other day,” said chorus teacher Elizabeth Quackenbush. Mrs. Quackenbush also said that the competition gave the chorus a goal to work towards throughout the year. Senior Maggie Austin said that the chorus has been preparing for the competition since December.

Because of the tough competition, there were mixed feelings going in to the competition.  “Our expectations were to do well but we did much better than expected,” said junior Avery Reale about the mindset leading up to the trip. “I kind of thought we were going to lose because (the rehearsals before the trip) were not going too hot,” said junior Gracie Catanzarite. Austin said one of their goals was not to come in last.

Luckily, Catanzarite and Reale were surprised because the chorus performed extremely well. The chorus sang two pieces: “one of the songs was a poem and the other was a Portuguese song,” said junior Josh Frank. These seem unusual choices but Mrs. Quackenbush chose an uptempo and a slow piece that was good for the level of singers she had. The main chorus was a part of the AA Division which had seven schools in total, but there were other divisions and many other schools at the competition. Within this group, the J-DHS chorus placed second. The women’s choir was in a separate division, in which they came in first place.

The band’s performance at the competition was just as stellar. “It was a very unifying experience and gave the group a very concrete goal to work towards throughout the year,” said band teacher Dan Blumenthal. According to junior Ben Cohen, the band has been preparing for the competition for two to three months. Mr. Blumenthal said that the rehearsals over those months sparked incredible growth in the talent of the band. Junior Sarah Nevin was excited for the trip because she thought that “it would be a lot of fun, getting to hang out with friends on the beach and stuff.” Like many of the chorus students, the band students were not expecting to place as well as they did. “I honestly didn't think we would do too well but we did pretty well considering we got first,” said Cohen. The J-DHS band came in first overall in their division. Nevin does not know how competitive the other bands were because they didn’t get to listen to the other bands perform. However, she said that “we played harder music than any of the other bands and we still did better than any of them.”

The competition took place on a Friday, so it wasn’t the only thing the students on the trip did while in Virginia Beach. One of the days they attended a large amusement park, Busch Gardens. For many students, this was the highlight of the trip. Another attraction was the location of their hotel: right on the beach. For Mrs. Quackenbush, the best part was seeing all of the students have fun together. “The kids were really mixing well and they were very respectful, (and) they were punctual,” she said. Mrs. Quackenbush was inspired by how well the students represented the school. After enduring a freezing, upstate New York winter and a few weeks of muddy spring, this getaway was perfect for many of the students. “We were on the beach so even though the water was really cold we still went in and it was really fun,” said Catanzarite.

According to Nevin, the band will go on the trip every other year, so she will not get to go again but the freshmen and sophomores who went this year will. According to Mrs. Quackenbush, she is hoping to go on a trip every year. From wiping out the competition to swimming at the beach, the trip was fun for all and those who went on the trip hope to get the opportunity to go again. “All the JD groups did very well and now we've got some fancy hardware to show for it!” said Mr. Blumenthal.