As the first semester of the 2020-2021 school year draws to a close, members of our Upper School Chamber Orchestra reflected on their learning so far, the challenges faced and successes achieved while participating in a virtual orchestra, and their excitement for the upcoming holiday concert (airing on Westridge's YouTube channel Friday, December 18 at 6 pm). 

Upper School Chamber Orchestra Teacher Kerri Epps had this to say: "As a music teacher, the one question I am asked the most is: 'What does orchestra look like online?' This has been a question that I have continually asked myself over the past 10 months during remote learning. The answer to that question lies in the remarkable ingenuity and resilience of the Westridge students. Our Upper School Chamber Orchestra began this fall semester determined to create performance videos that would give us the possibility to make music together, albeit virtually and edited together. These talented students showcased the fruits of their labor in the culminating Chamber Project. There are no words to describe the pride and admiration I have for these students and their final performance projects. I am filled with joy, wonder, and amazement in seeing their accomplishments and strength in spite of the unprecedented challenges of this time."

Read on for student reflections and watch their Chamber Project performances alongside performances from the Westridge Glee Club and Madrigals in the "Music for the Holidays" YouTube concert on December 18!

Sarah H. '22:

During Semester I in orchestra class we focused on learning how to perform together without actually being together. We learned how to use video editing applications to put together videos of us playing our instruments to create a piece. For this Chamber Project, we were put into small groups and got to choose our own pieces to play. People chose many diverse pieces, from classic Christmas tunes to Disney medleys. Hope you enjoy.

Michelle J. '23:

Over the past few months in orchestra, we've tried out many different projects and collaborated with our peers to play music together. Starting off the year, we discussed how we would tackle online learning and decided the best way would be for everyone to record themselves playing and the edit it all together. We first tried this out with scales, and then moved onto "Surgere Tentamus" as well as picking our own songs to play. Even though it has been a struggle, I'm really proud of us (my group and I) for coming together and being able to produce this piece.

Lila K. '23:

During this first semester, we have been working on many projects both individually and in groups. We started off the year with learning how to record and sync our videos to create a cohesive performance. We also focused on representation in the music industry by discovering musicians who share important aspects of our identity, such as age, gender, nationality, etc. Lastly, we have most recently been working on our Chamber Projects. We were split into a total of eight trios/quartets, and we were all given the opportunity to choose our pieces. After recording, many drafts, and revisions, we were able to create performance videos that we hope the community will enjoy. 

Anna K. '24:

This semester in orchestra, we have learned and worked together through this online experience. I think that we've had many successes, and all of the projects we do help our Westridge community, such as the instructional videos we did for Lower Schoolers and the "Surgere Tentamus" performance that we put on display for the whole school. I think that we all began the Chamber Project and initially thought that it might not work out because of the challenges it posed. I think that playing together virtually is a lot harder and involves much more attention than playing in person does. Despite that, I think that everyone was really successful with their projects and we have all learned so much from this experience.

Sophie P. '21:

This semester, we had the challenge of learning how to play our instruments "together" while quarantining at home. We broke up into smaller groups and selected music of our choice. Then we had to put our heads together and come up with a clever way to fit all of our parts into a single video. We had to figure out tempo, editing, background organizing. We all came across many challenges and we gave feedback on each other's videos. But in the end, we were able to create music from miles apart.

Claire S. '22:

This semester in Chamber Orchestra, we have been building up our virtual ensemble skills over the course of three main projects. For the first project, each person edited together a scale played in a round with themselves. For the second project, we were put into groups, and we each recorded our part to "Surgere Tentamus" and edited them together. And for our most recent project, the Chamber Project, we, again, got into groups, but this time we picked our own pieces. For both the "Surgere Tentamus" performance and the Chamber Project, we did two drafts so that we had a chance to improve and fix anything we felt could've been better, but for the Chamber Project, some groups who were happy with the first draft chose to do a second piece. Besides these three projects, we've also made instructional videos for the Middle and Lower Schoolers, and we've done presentations on musicians who we feel represent us.

Emma T. '23:

During the coronavirus pandemic, we were not able to gather as a group. However, we all found new ways to play together. We started with a small project where we recorded ourselves playing scales and learned how to edit videos together along the way. We then transitioned into bigger projects, such as the Chamber Project, where took the skills that we learned from that first project, and were able to get together in groups of 3-4 and make chamber music.

Emily W. '21:

Although this first semester of chamber orchestra has occurred during an unprecedented time, students have been hard at work. Throughout our time together, we have focused on recording and editing ourselves together, as if we were playing in person. This Chamber Project involves our orchestra divided into small groups, and we have chosen songs that we would like to play for the community. It is the culmination of our efforts, and our videos showcase our progress as both musicians and students navigating a virtual orchestral experience.

Clara K. '22:

This semester we have done a few projects to explore orchestral music during online learning. We started with smaller projects such as recording scales and moved on to bigger recording projects such as recording "Surgere Tentamus." We have also done many presentations and learned about different musicians. Finally, to finish out the semester we did a group Chamber Project where each group chose a piece and we recorded our individual parts and put them together using an editing software.

Hannah W. '23:

Through our musical talents and the magic of editing, we were able to create different types of musical projects; from our very first scale project to now complete musical masterpieces, we as the Upper School Chamber Orchestra worked diligently to promote a sense of musical support and hope through this unfortunate and strange year. We hope you enjoy our works so far.

Shirlynn C. '21:

Although Chamber Orchestra is facing the tough reality of the lack of live performances and creating music as an ensemble, we are adapting to the circumstances and keeping music alive through whatever means possible! This year, we have explored the concept of virtual ensembles where we achieve a final production of ensemble performance through audio and video editing techniques. We have experimented with different recording methods (whether to use a click-track or a metronome). This has led to several projects, including a preliminary scale project, a grade-oriented project where we performed "Surgere Tentamus," and our most recent Chamber Project. The latter saw unique pairings of various instruments in groups of 3 or 4 and performances of self-selected pieces. In addition to creating music, we have also celebrated musicians. We have studied trailblazers such as conductor Marin Alsop and the string trio "The String Queens." Most recently, we have been presenting our "Representation Matters" research projects. We each examined various parts of our identity and then researched a specific musician that reflects a few of the core parts of our identity. Finally, we have spread the joy of learning and playing music by creating instructional videos for Lower and Middle Schoolers. These videos discussed topics ranging from music theory, practice techniques, posture, etc.