Orchestra students compete in solo & ensemble


Solo and Ensemble participants take a photo together at Tyler Legacy High School. Courtesy photo.

Lizett Garcia, Staff Writer

On Saturday, Feb. 26, the KHS Orchestra went to compete in the Solo and Ensemble Competition at Tyler Legacy High School. Students who participated in the competition had been working hard for weeks to perfect their music.

“I had been looking forward to playing my piece and giving it everything I have,” freshman Kyleigh Lewis said.

The Solo and Ensemble competition is very different from orchestral music. Students have to play their music independently without relying on the orchestra.

“In orchestral music, some instruments rarely get the melody, like the second violins, violas, cellos, and bass. So when it’s Solo & Ensemble time, everyone gets to work on a solo where they get the melody for an entire piece of music that is written just for their instrument,” orchestra director Sherry Paetznick said.

The solos students have to play come with challenges and require focus.

“I think the most challenging part for me was memorizing the whole piece,” Lewis said.

There are three levels of solos: class one, two, and three. Class three solos are the easiest and class one solos are the hardest to play because they are professional level.

“The hardest solos are several pages and professional level. They have musical notations the students have never seen before, like double sharps and double flats, strange time signatures like 6/4 and 12/8, and difficult rhythms,” Paetznick said.

Students were able to choose which solo they wanted to play. Students who are playing a class one solo will need to play it by memory. If a student scores a one, a superior rating, on a class one solo, they will qualify for the State Solo and Ensemble Competition at the end of the school year.

“I chose a class one solo because my goal is to earn a one with it memorized so I can go to state this summer,” Lewis said.

Students chose which solo they wanted to play several weeks in advance so that they could have time to practice.

“I take lessons every Monday, I practice during class, and find time at home to practice,” Lewis said.

Students were also given time to practice to prepare for the competition during their orchestra class period.

“We’ve had many class days to work on solos, and I go around to help them as needed,” Paetznick said, “I also call students into my office to play along with the YouTube video or a video of the piano accompaniment so they know how that sounds. They’ve also had a couple of grades on sections of their solo to keep them moving along with their preparation.”

Certain songs require a piano accompaniment. Local Pianist David Berryhill has been coming in and playing the piano accompaniment with students.

“Working with a musician of that caliber is always rewarding and beneficial. It’s a completely new experience playing with piano. Students have to learn to project their sound to be heard over the piano. They must be very accurate with their counting to remain with the piano,” Paetznick said. “Overall, I see students gain confidence after the experience of playing with an accompanist.”

The judges rated students on a scale of one to five with 1 being the highest. Students who score a 1, superior rating, on their solos receive a medal.

“I always hope to score a one, but I mainly want to walk out knowing that I gave it 100%,” Lewis said.

The following students recieved a 1st division rating on a class three solo: Trenton Marks, viola; Nathan Lockridge, cello; Sarah Gardener, cello; Ivania Gomez, cello; Morgan Smith, viola; Paula Garduno, viola; Holly Dowell, cello; and Vaughn Wright.

Three students recieved a superior rating and qualified for the State Solo and Ensemble Competition: Kyleigh Lewis, violin; Julia Olive, cello; and Axel Lira, viola.