Just over a month ago, we hosted our first orchestra retreat since Fall 2019. This time around, the original plan was to spend the day at Pacific Lutheran University, working with their music faculty. However, due to a scheduling conflict, we opted to have our retreat here at BHS, and instead bring faculty to us!
The first activity of the day was a "rope team" exercise. All 120+ students split into teams of about 10, with a team leader on each "rope". Students had to teach their own group specific types of knots, and teams had to communicate with other teams to allow slack in the line. Once everyone was tied up, the entire orchestra program moved together fixed on just one rope. It was fascinating to see the different teaching styles and leadership skills come to play from students.
Later that morning, each instrument group went to "sectionals" coached by Janice Lee (Bellevue Youth Symphony), Li-ling Liao (Tacoma Youth Symphony), Lillian Hollyday (Odle Orchestra Director), and Megan Jancola (Chinook Orchestra Director). Students from all grade levels and classes came together to play simple duets and trios. The cello room had nearly thirty cellists, while the violin room had over seventy violinists! To finish the morning sessions, students were treated to a "faculty recital" by our guest coaches, which included Mr. Kam!
After lunch, we finished the day with on-stage clinics with Professor Asieh Mahyar, orchestra director from PLU. With only five weeks into the new school year, each orchestra class prepared a piece for "workshop". Concert Orchestra performed Lion City by Soon Hee Newbold, Sinfonia performed 'Allegro' from Symphony No. 6 by Tchaikovsky, and
Chamber Orchestra performed the 'The Dargason' from Saint Paul's Suite by Gustav Holst. It was incredible to hear each group be able to respond to many of Professor Mahyar's suggestions in real time. So proud of our students!
Overall, it was great to have retreat back. The pandemic halted more than just classes and in-person learning - it put the brakes on so many of the awesome events we've been able to host in the past. Looking forward to next year's retreat, students expressed interest in expanding the retreat into an offsite, extended day event. With the guidance of our Orchestra Boosters and Orchestra Student Council, I imagine that our annual Fall Retreat will be able to offer more music playing and learning, strengthen bonds between classes and orchestras, and help us remember that music is something special that we get to do!