By Elise Marlett, Current Staff
The orchestra program is putting on their largest performance in history.
For the first time ever, the West Bend School District’s orchestra program is performing a free concert featuring all 564 of the district’s orchestra students in one piece, ranging from beginners to advanced high school students. This Tuesday, all orchestra musicians, and also a select group from the West Bend High Schools Band, will gather at the Washington County Fairgrounds at 7 p.m for the debut of the All-District Strings Festival.
“This concert is very unique to our region and is a celebration of our phenomenal orchestra program,” said Hannah Muehlbauer, Silverbrook Intermediate School orchestra teacher. “There is not another orchestra program with so many students who perform at such a high level. It is an honor to teach them and a privilege to put on such a fun program.”
WBHS orchestra teacher Seth Matuszak hopes that this concert will capture the dramatic musical improvement that takes place between the novice and advanced levels in the orchestra program, which he calls the hidden gem of West Bend.
“It gives (the audience) a chance to see the progression a student makes from the beginning through high school,” Matuszach said. “It’s really not that many years when you think about it, it’s eight years total. It’s amazing how far they have come in just eight years’ time. That’s why parents, friends, family and community members should come.”
West sophomore and cellist Delaney Younglove thinks this concert is impactful for both those participating and those observing.
“I think it’s really cool because the younger kids will have people to look up to and will see how they can grow,” Younglove said. “I think it’s also really cool for the parents because they can see all the different levels of our orchestra program and how it’s evolved.”
“This concert is very unique to our region and is a celebration of our phenomenal orchestra program.”
– Hannah Muehlbauer, Silverbrook orchestra teacher
Being a teacher for the newest orchestra musicians of the school district, Muehlbauer speaks on behalf of her students about the difficulties of working with advanced musicians.
“The Silverbrook students are very excited and nervous to be playing with the older students,” Muehlbauer said. “While the music is at their level and they’re doing a great job, we are working hard to be able to play the combined music fast enough so that we can play it well with the older kids.”
Despite the challenges, Matuszak says that this all-district concert is going to become an annual event to grow the opportunities to fundraise for student lessons and personal instrument repair.
“We’re going to put a donation box out at this concert and all free will donations are going to go directly towards setting up a special account that is for helping students pay for either their lessons or music camps,” Matuszak said. “That’s something new, another reason we want this to be an annual thing.”
Matuszak says that this concert is more than an opportunity to engage the community, but is also an important showcase affecting the future of the program.
“It gives us a chance to advocate for the importance of music education,” Matuszak said. “I’m hoping that we can get as many school administrators as possible to attend this, school board members, so that they can see just what a quality program that we have. That’s one of the biggest goals. I’m really excited about the conversations that will spark.”
In addition to the orchestra students, a small group from the WBHS band will be joining the WBHS orchestra for a full symphonic piece. Younglove says that this opportunity is exciting because most orchestra students have never played with brass, woodwind and percussion instruments.
“I think it’s interesting that we have a full symphonic concert because a lot of us have never had that experience before, unless we’re in some outside-of-school group, so I think to hear the different parts of a symphonic orchestra, it’ll be a new experience for a lot of people,” Younglove said.
(Top image: WBHS orchestra director Seth Matuszak leads students as they practice for Tuesday’s all-district concert. Photos by Elise Marlett, Current Staff.)