MVHS orchestra students loaded buses and said goodbye to family members on Saturday, Jan. 13 as they drove up to YMCA Camp Campbell in the Santa Cruz Mountains for the first-ever orchestra camp, where they spent three days growing as musicians and as people.
Orchestra camp has been 10 years in the making, according to Music Director Jason Kneebone.
Like those held by Marching Band and choir, the orchestra retreat aimed to create student bonds and improve their playing.
Students participated in events from musical clinics to team-building activities like archery and ropes courses. According to junior Camille Shiu and senior Zakriya Bashir-Hill, getting to know new people throughout the combined orchestras was a highlight of the trip.
“Orchestra doesn’t really have that social culture that band does,” Bashir-Hill said. “To know people from different sections and a different orchestra — that was just really valuable.”
It was especially beneficial for students to be able to play with both orchestras. The school orchestra program comprises two separate ensembles, Chamber Orchestra and String Orchestra. They only perform together once a year, Shiu said, so getting the chance to play together brought them together as musicians and peers.
“I feel like here we don’t necessarily get the chance to see each other that much, it’s just in orchestra,” Shiu said about her class.
Bashir-Hill agreed that orchestras have always been more musically and academically oriented than band. In orchestra, the musicians spend less time together because they only practice in class and have few concerts. In Marching Band, the students get to know each other better within a small amount of time.
“Everybody’s so close for such a short amount of time and it’s hard not to create those bonds, just for the sheer amount of hours that we rehearse together,” Kneebone said. “There hasn’t been much opportunity for [the orchestras]to come together in a social atmosphere.”
During their stay, orchestra members got to learn from professional instructors in performance workshops. This helped them improve greatly as they worked toward the String Fling, held on Jan. 13, an annual concert event in which middle school students rehearse, socialize, and perform with the MVHS orchestras.
While at camp, Kneebone saw the playing level of his students increase greatly. He added that it was great to watch the abilities between orchestras influence each other, and the intermediate students playing alongside the advanced students greatly improved the orchestras level as a whole.
Overall, it was evident to both the instructors and the students that going to camp brought them closer as musicians and improved their playing.“You tend to play better when you know the people you’re playing with,” he said.