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The Westminster Bi-Line

School Orchestra program better than ever

The orchestra program at Westminster was started in 1981 and has been growing ever since. “There are twice as many [orchestra students] in the junior high orchestra since I started,” said Linda Cherniavsky, who has been working in the performing arts department at Westminster for 25 years. On Oct. 30, the Westminster orchestra will be having its first concert of the year.

“Two of the orchestras are going to be performing,” said Cherniavsky. “The Chamber Orchestra and the Junior Chamber Orchestra.”

The orchestra will be playing “Overture to the Wind,” written by Kurt Mosier, and “Orchestral Suite No. 3,” written by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Senior Meg Panetta, who plays the string bass and has been in the Westminster orchestra since sixth grade, said, “I look forward to ‘Overture to the Wind,’ because it has a lot of strange tempo changes and odd harmonies.”

Freshman Ariana Mao also finds “Overture to the Wind” to be an interesting song.

“It’s my favorite piece,” said Mao, who has been in the Westminster orchestra program for four years.

“The Bach orchestral suite is a suite of dance movements,” Cherniavsky said. “There are solo sections [in this piece] and they are going to be played by [seniors] Zachary Butner, Meg Panetta, Rahul Patel, Timothy Shu, and [junior] Gabriel Bellot-McGrath.”

The orchestra will be playing the entire “Third Orchestral Suite,” which pleases Panetta.

“I look forward to playing a couple of rhythmically interesting parts with the bass section,” said Panetta, “and to performing an entire divertimento by Bach, [instead of] just a few snippets of it.”

The process of selecting music for the concert starts at the beginning of the year.

“The orchestra instructional team–[Jim] Plondke, Rebecca Colborg-Frederick, and [I]– decide at the beginning of the year what to do for the year,”Cherniavsky said.

A unique aspect of the orchestra is their utilization of Schoology.

“[It’s] one of our goals to use [Schoology] this year,” said Cherniavsky. “Dr. Plondke has assigned secondary source readings for the students to do and we are [using] Schoology.”

This Schoology assignment is about baroque performance practice. By making the students do research on this specific time period, the students will learn how to emulate the baroque sound in Bach’s “Third Orchestral Suite.”

Cherniavsky thinks classical music is sometimes hard for students to grasp.

“We’ve been doing a lot of talking about appropriate concert decorum in the performing arts leadership group,” said Cherniavsky. “We have been asking for the students to treat the concert experience with respect.”

She also offers some advice on how to enjoy the concert experience more.

“You need to focus on the concert experience… one of the things you can do while you’re listening is you can observe the different performers playing. In a string orchestra we have the visual effect of the bowing to focus your attention on,” said Cherniavsky. “You can also watch the conductor’s gestures and watch how they influence the way the musicians are playing.”

The classical music experience might be different from other performances that students have attended.

“It’s not appropriate in traditional classical concerts to applaud between the movements, said Cherniavsky, “so wait until the end of the piece.”

Since Bach’s “Third Orchestral Suite” is broken up into different movements, this means that the audience must wait until the end of the entire orchestral suite to applaud.

“Ms. [Cherniavsky] and Dr. [Plondke] are hilarious in their own ways and everyone in the orchestra generally furnishes an interest in music,” said senior Rahul Patel, who has played viola since third grade. “It’s cool being around people who share the same interests.”

“[My favorite part is] playing with everybody,” Mao said, “and when we get good.”
Cherniavsky agrees.

“The orchestra is a closely knit group,” said Cherniavsky. “It’s like a family.” Many people in the orchestra have been together for as long as 10 years, so they truly are like a family, and they form very close friendships with each other.

“Join!” said Patel. “It is so much fun; you make great friends and if you like music it is the thing for you.”
Panetta equally appreciates the experiences she has had in the orchestra program.
“The orchestra program is fun,” Panetta said. “We play interesting things and go on awesome trips.”
The first orchestra concert of the year is on Oct. 30, and the participating students highly encourage others to attend.

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