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Choir and Orchestra Director Amber Petersen and Band Director Brian Cosner / Laura Austin Photo

Burroughs High musicians gather laurels at festival

Burroughs High School–  Burroughs High School music programs earned two gold, three silver, and one bronze ratings during their six orchestra, choir, and band performances at a WorldStrides Music Festival on April 28. The group was also singled out from more than a dozen other school programs to win the “Spirit Award” — presented to the school whose students demonstrate an outstanding level of excitement and whose interactions with each other, their directors, and festival staff stands out for consistent positivity.

Choir and Orchestra Director Amber Petersen and Band Director Brian Cosner shepherded nearly 100 student musicians through a marathon day of warming up, performing, hearing critiques, and supporting their classmates through a rigorous schedule of six sessions at three different sites.

Each performance was reviewed by three judges, who passed feedback along to directors at the end of the event. After performances, one judge during each session would offer an adjudication clinic that gave critical praise and feedback, as well as special training that helped improve one or more facets of each group’s capabilities.

The following day, students were invited to visit the Disneyland theme park before attending a special awards ceremony at the Hyperion Theater in California Adventure.

Our performance classes faced other programs from California and a handful from visiting states in the most competitive three categories — Division 3A. Groups are awarded a rating (Gold for the top 10 percent, Silver for the top 20 percent, and Bronze for the top 30 percent) and a ranking of how well they placed compared to their peers.

The String Orchestra and the Chamber Orchestra won a Gold Rating and 1st Place. The adjudicators praised both groups for technical precision and dedication to the music. Members of the audience also noticed that other directors were praising the BHS director and musicians as an exemplary models to other orchestras.

The Concert Choir and Madrigals each won silver ratings and second place in their categories.

“I am so proud of both our choral groups!” said Mrs. Petersen. “This semester, they performed a full-stage musical and competed in what was, for most of them, their very first festival! I look forward to helping both groups continue polishing and developing performances.”

She said having one of their choral clinicians, Petersen’s former California State, Los Angeles professor, was also thrilling. “It felt like a ‘full-circle moment’ having her work with my students!”

Petersen said it was also fulfilling that a clinician for one of the orchestras noted that he found “Rhosmydre” boring when he had to play it in high school. “He said that our group performed it so well that now he loves it!” Another positive feedback from the other orchestra clinician was a remark about how flexible and fun the students were to work with.

She also shared credit for the orchestras’ first-place finishes with Ms. Laura Olinger, who teaches the feeder programs at Murray and Monroe. “If I did not have her working so hard to recruit students and prepare them for high school, we would not be able to take our kids to this next level.”

The Symphonic and Cadet bands ended up competing against each other, with the first earning a silver rating and second place and the latter earning bronze and third.

“The ensembles both rose to the challenge and delivered some of their best performances of the year,” said Mr. Cosner.

“The clinician feedback was very positive, the critiques were well received, and the experience will help our students grow as musicians.”

Outstanding students from each group were invited to collect awards for their schools. Burroughs representatives included Mathew Kimbler and Shelby Higgen from Cadet Band, Lezly Albro and Donnel Dunlap from Symphonic Band, Kevin Wagner and Kayla Walter from Concert Choir, Julius Wojciechowski and Citlali Tellez from Madrigals, Amanda Huynh and Andrew Bui from Orchestra, and Alex Vargas and Ana Trigueros from Chamber Orchestra.

During the presentation of the Spirit Award, Emcee Kyle Naylor shared that Burroughs musicians loaned instruments to other programs, adjusted to multiple last-minute scheduling changes, and always retained their positive attitudes.

Mr. Cosner said that a school from Alaska had lost a bag of percussion equipment on their way to the event. “We were happy to help out another ensemble in a jam, and I hope others would have been willing to do the same for us.”

“I’m enormously impressed with how well all of our groups performed — especially considering the hectic travel,” said Mr. Cosner. “Many of our students had the school band concert the night before and still went on to perform with multiple ensembles in the festival on the following day.”

“Working with these students and making music with them is a thrill. I don’t think I could be more proud of our first festival out the gate!” said Petersen.

The BHS bands performed their final concert of the season on April 27. The BHS choirs and orchestras will hold their final performances on May 16 and 17 at the Parker Performing Arts Center at 6:30 p.m.

Stage Band will travel to the Riverside City College Jazz Festival on May 13 and perform with the orchestra on May 17.