Oakton High School violinist Alice Xiang had spent the past two months drilling note upon note into her head and assessing her own playing against that of professionals. All this preparation fed into one audition for the Northern Virginia Senior Regional Orchestra (SRO) on Oct. 3.
“While waiting for the results, I was quite passive because I did not feel that I had performed well enough to be selected into the orchestra,” Xiang said. “The only thing I could do was wait.”
Xiang’s preparation paid off. She, along with fellow violinists Stacy Ham, Irene Lee, Alice Xiang, Rachel Kim and Hannah Kang, violist Mikey Lankenau, cellists Mike Dettmar, Gary Yeh and Emily Wang, and horn player Carl Conas, found herself in the group of SRO qualifiers. This group of 10 is the largest Oakton High has ever sent to SRO.
Encompassing Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria county high schools, the Northern Virginia SRO is made up of more than 100 students. The competitive audition process takes place before a panel of judges and involves the performance of scales, a prepared piece and sight-reading.
“Since the SRO audition is very competitive and demanding, I consistently practiced the hardest scales they could have asked for,” Xiang said.
The success of Oakton students in their SRO auditions can be attributed to practice outside of school with private instructors and to the strength of the school’s orchestra program.
“I have many talented students at Oakton who work really hard at the tasks that are put before them,” director Debra Myers said.
With 115 students in the entire program, Oakton orchestra contains a variety of skill levels. To accommodate this, students are placed in Concert, Symphonic, or Chamber orchestra. All three are directed by Debra Myers.
No matter how many years of experience or playing ability, all orchestra members share a common passion for and dedication to the music they play, as well as to the program.
“More of the students are serious about their instruments than those of other schools,” Xiang said. “It really gives Oakton an advantage when it comes to performance.”
Despite a more rigorous atmosphere surrounding students individually, the orchestra as a whole takes advantage of close bonds that go beyond playing the same notes.
“I think that Oakton orchestra is able to perform well because we have really good chemistry within the orchestra,” Ham said. “Some of us even call it our orchestra family.”
At the head of this family is Myers. Myers is known for her commitment to helping students through challenging excerpts of music even beyond class hours and for her competency in organizing events such as overnight trips and the fall car wash.
“My approach to teaching is that every student has a right to a musical education,” Myers said. “I try and provide the best possible environment that will ensure every student will learn music at whatever level that may be performing at.” This environment supplies a channel for students to not only develop their technical playing skills, but also to amplify their enthusiasm for music.
“We make jokes and laugh as a class with [Myers],” Ham said. “It may sound juvenile, but having fun is honestly the key to enjoying music and enjoying orchestra.”
The orchestra’s next concert is the Fall Costume Concert on Oct. 27 at Oakton High School. The SRO meets Nov. 11 and 12 at South Lakes High School.