By Crystal Hayduk
The spotlight shone on 17 seniors at the Concerto Concert on May 1 at Chelsea High School, one of the “big finales” prior to graduation.
According to Steve Hinz, vocal music director, the annual event features senior music students who not only earn the highest rating at the district Solo and Ensemble Festival in early February, but also choose to continue to refine their solo for performance at the concert as a culmination of their high school music career.
Hinz said that students choose their solo piece in the fall of their senior year, or even earlier.
Orchestra student Kyle Patterson, who performed J.C. Bach’s “Concerto in C Minor, Allegro” on the viola, said that participating in the concert was “a dream come true.” He has been practicing and memorizing his solo for 18 months. “There aren’t a lot of concertos written for the viola,” he said. “You have to really love a piece to be willing to play it for that long.”
The musicians also consult with each other to avoid choosing the same piece. Emmett Henry, a violist who plans to further his music study at Michigan State University, performed Stamitz’s “Concerto in D, Allegro with Cadenza.”
Nathan Peters, assistant orchestra director, praised the high school music department for their hard work. Regarding the musicians who backed the soloists, he said, “They had a lot of new music to learn, and they did well.” he said.
Flutist Lisa Kaiser, who also serves as the high school’s drum major, wowed the audience with a modern piece by Russian composer Otar Gordeli, “Concertino.”
Kaiser reflected on her entrance into the music program as a fifth grader in 2011. “When I tried the flute, I really liked it, but the guy from the music company said it wasn’t a good fit for me because of the size of my hands and because I had asthma. He said I should play the clarinet.”
But with Band Director Rick Catherman’s support, Kaiser committed to prove that her desire to play the flute would win.
And win she has. Kaiser played her first solo as a sophomore and earned a “1” (highest rating) at both the district and state festivals. In her junior and senior years, she was nominated to audition for soloist at the Michigan Youth Arts Festival. “The nomination is very hard to get, and the audition is statewide, so it’s extremely competitive. It’s an honor to even be invited to audition,” said Kaiser.
Playing in the Concerto Concert was one of Kaiser’s most challenging performances. “For festival solos, you play with a pianist, but compared to standing before an entire symphony orchestra, that one pianist is easy,” she said. “You’re up there in the lights in front of everyone and you feel so singled out in that moment. It’s a challenge to play your piece, stay in time with all the orchestra behind you, and also watch the conductor.
“I feel humbled and overwhelmed with support, both from my teachers and the other musicians who had to learn to play an incredibly difficult composition to support me,” she said.
Catherman agrees with Kaiser’s assessment. “The Concerto Concert is another opportunity for our community to experience what I get to experience on a daily basis: the commitment and dedication that our music students have to their art and to one another,” he said.
“This unique event showcases the hard work that our senior band, choir, and orchestra members have invested during their years of study. … It also demonstrates the willingness of our music students to celebrate the accomplishments of their colleagues,” he said.
“Our students support and encourage one another, and make the time to listen and show their appreciation. The effort that goes into accompanying a soloist –
especially considering the number of students we celebrate each year – is recognized, as well as the solo performance itself, and is a true testament to the type of students we have at Chelsea High School,” Catherman said, adding, “I’m so proud of all our music students, and appreciate the opportunity I have to contribute to their growth as students, musicians, and people.”
Many audience members consider this to be their favorite musical event of the year. Debbie Noye wrote in a Facebook comment: [I] love the Concerto Concert. This is one of the concerts I still like to attend even though I no longer have a child in school. The music is always beautiful, but what I really like is to see the passion expressed in their faces. My son performed in his senior concerto concert 20 years ago and I know the level of dedication and hard work that goes into it.”
Thanks goes to the Chelsea Music Boosters, the music directors (Jed Fritzemeier, Nathan Peters, Rick Catherman, Steve Hinz), and Madeline Warner, University of Michigan student teacher.Concerto Concert 2019 program