By Faith Oak
Granada Hills Charter High School (GHC) hosted its annual joint orchestra and jazz band holiday concert on November 27. The event took place in Highlander Hall at 7:00 p.m., throughout which there were performances by solo acts, small groups, string and chamber orchestra, and jazz band. Orchestra teacher Brandon Cunningham directed the concert for the first time.
As the concert was holiday-themed, each ensemble played festive songs including “Carol of the Bells,” “Ave Maria,” “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” among others.
Preparations for the concert began about two months prior to the show. After assessing his students’ levels of ability and looking for seasonal songs, Cunningham selected a set of music for each performing group and began facilitating rehearsal in class. For each song, he held full ensemble rehearsals as well as sectionals, during which each first chair in the ensemble led its respective section in practice.
“We isolate the things that need practicing and go over the problems as a group because it’s hard to see those things practicing alone at home. But it’s always exciting to see everything come together in a professional environment because we break down all our parts, but we don’t know how it all comes together until then,” senior Drake Valenzuela said. Valenzuela is president of the Highlander String Orchestra Association (HSOA).
Prior to the joint concert, jazz band and both orchestra rehearsals were each separate. HSOA Vice President and senior Abigail Rodriguez, who plays both the cello and piano for orchestra and jazz band, explained the difference.
“A string orchestra has less instruments in it compared to a jazz band, so I find myself worrying more on how I can contribute to my section. Meanwhile, in jazz band, I need to pay attention to how my section fits in with all the other parts. Both ensembles take as much work to prepare for a concert, but my attention shifts depending on the group that I am playing for,” Rodriguez said.
While Cunningham cultivated the musical selection, he gave students the freedom to choose their apparel for the concert. Deviating from their typically formal concert attire, orchestra students voted to wear ugly holiday sweaters and Santa hats. Cunningham also opened up an art competition to his students, and the winning design by junior Megha Jain was featured on the program cover.
“I always look forward to playing for an audience at each holiday concert. It brings me so much joy to share the music we have all worked on with our parents and friends. It is great to expose this community to different genres and styles of music,” Rodriguez said.