Orchestra Fresher than ever

Normal 0 0 1 632 3604 30 7 4425 11.1282 0 0 0 Twenty-threeyears ago, when the Cold War was still going on and Square Co. Ltd. firstreleased Final Fantasy forthe Famicom, the Ames Community School District hired an orchestra conductor.Although she herself had never had the opportunity to play in a schoolorchestra, she was given the task of conducting three elementary schools andboth the middle school and high school. With only 7 string players (and nobass) in her first high school orchestra, finding appropriate music was theleast of her troubles. Now it’s2009 and the high school orchestra has expanded to 12 times its original size.Square Enix is about to release Final Fantasy XIII (that’s right, count ‘em) for the PS3 and the Soviet Union nolonger exists. Though a lot of things have changed, Mrs. Mary Kay Polashek isstill in Ames, conducting the Ames High Orchestra. Although it was probablyhard to imagine such a possibility back in 1987, the Orchestra has nowflourished to the point of overpopulation; 86 string players to be exact,including the freshmen. “[Theidea of Freshman Orchestra] came out of frustration of having so many stringplayers in a room,” Mrs. Polashek said. “Of feeling like we were too crowded. Lastyear we were having trouble moving around, and I don’t know of any standardorchestra that has 86 string players. That’s usually the size of symphonicorchestra with all the wind, brass and percussion.” With 21freshmen currently in 9 th grade Orchestra and 5 others that willlikely rejoin after Marching Band season, they form what is possibly thelargest group of freshmen the Orchestra has ever had. Although that’s a goodthing, it’s also harder for them to transition into the new routine. “I wantedan opportunity to work with those freshmen and get them the skills that wereneeded for the music we play,” Mrs. Polashek said. “[In freshman year, highschool orchestra is] a huge amount of work. There’s an hour or more of music inone concert. I’m very pleased with how hard they’re working, [but] I need toget them out of their shells and get them to play out a little more, pull moreof their own weight. It’s bringing them in slowly.” “It’sbetter than middle school orchestra,” freshman Chris Merchant said. “There’sbetter music, and we’re going to have more. In middle school we just had like twosongs the whole year. Now we have three songs for like the first three months,and then we’ll add more later.” Anothergreat thing about this year’s incoming freshman is the addition of another harpplayer. As some may know, Ames High was lucky enough to have Laurel Tuggle asthe resident harpist for the last four years. This year freshman Logan Therethas taken up that mantle, and although she wasn’t part of the orchestra inmiddle school, she’s been enjoying the high school experience. “[Thebest thing is] probably getting the new pieces,” Theret said. “I mean, it’skind of stressful, sight-reading, it’s the first time I’ve ever done it but thepieces are really nice and it’s kind of fun.” The restof the freshmen, already veterans of watching somebody wave a baton about, hada bit more to say about the differences between high school and middle schoolorchestra. “Basically,it’s the same routine every day,” freshman (and sole bassist) Tommy Pitchersaid. “But we’re actually a lot better than last year even though it’s the samepeople. We practice like two and a half times more than we usually do, so we’repretty good now. Mostof the people want to be there so the people that were just like ‘my mom mademe do it’ [have all left].” At firstglance the freshmen Orchestra is a little quieter and more focused than the10-12 Orchestra probably because they’re still just trying to get used toeverything. They carry out Mrs. Polashek’s instructions without a moment’shesitation, rather unlike the upperclassmen. The respect is mutual though andthat’s all one really needs to run a successful orchestra. “Mrs.Polashek is a really great teacher.” Theret said. “Any orchestra would be luckyto have her.” “They’reall working hard and I enjoy every single one of them,” Mrs. Polashek said ofthe freshmen. “I’m very excited about this opportunity. It’s been a really funthing to do. It’s also more work for me, but I’m very happy doing it. I hopethat it continues to go really well and look forward to that first concert.”