The Berkeley Carroll Upper and Middle School music programs attended the Washington D.C. Worldstrides Heritage Music Festival over the weekend of April 12th to April 14th. The Heritage Festival, founded nearly 35 years ago, is a musical competition which invites ensembles and choirs from schools around the country to come and perform in famous venues. The Festival also allows the group the opportunity to be judged and critiqued by famous, accomplished musicians. Dr. Peter Holsberg, the Music Chair, is “very pleased with the results of our performances in Washington. It has always been the goal of the music department to be competitive at the highest level. We seek outside assessment at festivals like the Heritage Festival in order to receive feedback on how we are doing. The music department staff was very proud of the way our students performed and their comportment throughout the weekend.”
Both divisions enjoyed great success. The judges used nine main criterion to score the performances. These criteria were Tone, which dealt with the quality of the sound, Intonation, which had to do with the different melodic lines, Interpretation of the music, Balance of all the parts, the Blending of voices, instruments, and sections, Diction, Rhythm, Music, which dealt with the selections that were chosen to perform, and, lastly, the General Effect given by the performers. In the Upper School, the Choir, Chamber Choir, and String Ensemble were awarded Gold Medals and the Jazz Ensemble was awarded a Silver Medal. In the Middle School, the Jazz Ensemble won a Gold Medal, and the Orchestra, Choir, and Wind Ensemble received Silver Medals.
The Heritage Festival awards an additional honor, the Maestro Award, to soloists who display notable talent. This year, Middle School students Samantha Jordan (vocalist) and Benji Schaffzin (saxophonist) received Maestro Awards for their phenomenal performances.
The student participants seemed delighted over their success. “I’m really proud of us!”, concluded senior Emily Katzner of the Upper School Choir. “I think we did really well. We really pulled together as a group and I think that really paid off, and clearly the judges agreed!” Justin Indovina, the Choir director, had this to say about the trip: “I thought overall the trip was very successful. All of the students performed well both on and off the stage. I was very proud of the choirs on how well they came together and performed in such a beautiful space. Also we had some very strong soloists who were very musical, and received high praise from our judges and clinician. All students should be proud of their achievements, and I can’t wait to see how strong the choirs will be in the future.” Members of the Jazz Band recall similar success. Josiah Murrell, a junior and one of the drummers for the Jazz Ensemble felt that “the Jazz band did well. I have a very positive attitude about next year’s program, especially with some of the eighth graders moving up and people coming back. I think our biggest issue was staying focused, but if we maintain a level of focus for the whole year next year, I think we’ll get a Gold in DC.”
The trip began bright and early Friday morning, when the entire Upper and Middle School music programs loaded onto buses and headed off to D.C. When the students arrived in D.C. in the early afternoon, their first stop was at the National City Christian Church, the venue for the Choral Performances. Lorne Swarthout, an Upper School history teacher and faculty chaperone for the trip, recalls the beauty of the choir venue and delivery: “The choir performance in the beautiful, high, arching church really sticks out in my mind. The voices of the choir reached up to the top of the church, and they filled the space so wonderfully well. Leyla [Wade, a senior]’s Mozart solo voice seemed to be perfectly matched to the space, and the architecture of the church.” After watching the choir, the groups headed over to Woodrow Wilson Sr. High School for the instrumental performances. After these wrapped up, the students headed back to their hotel.
The next day, after a delicious breakfast, the musicians attended Clinics at Catholic University. The students worked with John Mitchell, Director of Bands, James Turk, of the US Navy Sea Chanters, Chris Vadala, Director of Jazz Studies (University of Maryland), and Matt Bickel, Director of Orchestras. The clinicians, all accomplished musicians and directors themselves, worked with the students, using the pieces that they had performed at the Festival. The clinicians focused especially on tone, feeling, and meaning in the pieces during their sessions.
After receiving instruction from the clinics, the musicians loaded back onto the buses and headed over to the National Mall. There, the students had a couple hours during which they could spread out and pursue their various interests around the area. Popular activities included visiting the Monuments (including Martin Luther King Jr. Monument and the Lincoln Memorial), going to Museums, and hanging out on the beautiful lawns of the Mall. Junior choir member Eliza Liebler notes, “It was a beautiful day. The cherry blossoms were all out, and it was sunny and the perfect temperature. It was a great day for exploring D.C.!”
Later that evening, the school attended the Heritage Festival Gala Dinner and Dance, where the awards were given out. Then, the next morning, the students returned home. Overall, the trip was a great success, and was thoroughly enjoyed by all in attendance. Mr. Swarthout concluded: “It seemed this year that the whole music program is more adventurous; the string ensemble is doing bluegrass and the choir is doing pop tunes. I’m not a musician and I’m not a musical expert and I haven’t played an instrument since I played the accordion when I was 14, but I really enjoyed the Spring Music Trip.”