Chamber Orchestra stays an octave above

As sophomore violinist Andrew Leonard practices at 5 a.m., the pressure for National Orchestra Festival begins to sink in. Extra preparation isn’t uncommon for musicians in Chamber Orchestra though. Since last spring when the orchestra was selected to participate, Chamber members have been rehearsing to perform for the first time, and as the only school from Florida.

“I practice hard in the morning and after school in order to make time for music and prepare myself for the upcoming concert,” Leonard said. “I have felt more stress and pressure to play my part well, along with the excitement of playing on a national level. The music the orchestra plays is difficult stuff.”

In order to perform at the festival, orchestras must apply and be selected to play. Chamber is one of the 21 orchestras from 14 different states that qualified and was invited to perform.

“At first everyone was just shocked that we were able to be part of the festival. It’s a pretty big deal,” violinist Marissa Scalise said. “We never knew how talented we were until this came up. We’ve been practicing our pieces for months and months so we can perform our absolute best.”

But in all the excitement the some of the fun had to fall flat. Two students from the orchestra are unable to attend the festival. Each performer had to pay roughly $500 in order to perform.

“We had Jersey Mike’s and Chipotle Nights, a desert concert, and a Honey Baked Ham fund-raiser,” Directer Maureen Fallon said, “and no one supported any of them.”

One of those unable to attend, bass player Hunter Schwartz, said the event wasn’t meant for everyone.

Along with fund-raising since spring, the orchestra has prepared in other ways. With the addition of a new strings consultant, Laura Pinfield, the group has had to adapt.

“With Mrs. Pinfield we’re learning what’s behind the music,” violinist Summer Rhodes said. “She’s taught us music theory and technical things which really help your ability to play and perform. Through her, everyone’s playing has improved, and the orchestra is well-prepared for this performance.”

But in the end, all that really matters is the passion the performers have for music to continue playing.

“When you’re playing continuously for thirty minutes, you don’t get physically tired but staying focused for that long takes a lot of energy,” viola player Sam Niemeier said. “Between keeping the tempo, listening to the other sections, having the conductor in your field of view and playing, it is a lot. But the adrenaline of the performance and love for the music takes care of it. ”

The National Orchestra Festival will be held in Tampa on March 3-5.

By Rachel Montgomery