Plaques with shiny gold plating line the walls of the music building as the beautiful sound that won those awards fills the air. Between the A Capella and Orchestra classes, the walls are jam packed with hardware demonstrating a longstanding tradition of excellence. This year, these two programs look to add to their collection.
The orchestra class went on a tour from March 24 to 27, and the A Capella class will tour from April 27 to 30. Both will be touring and competing at Universal Studios in Hollywood: A Capella in the Choral Heritage Festival, and Orchestra in the Instrumental Heritage Festival.
Both classes will take buses to and back from Southern California on their respective Thursdays, which Orchestra Director Cathy DeVos said is one of her favorite aspects of tour.
“I like the bus ride down,” DeVos said. “I prefer going down by bus. I like to see all the students together like that. It makes me feel closer to them too, to see them in this way.”
Upon arrival at their hotel, the classes will both have class dinners. Then the next day, Friday, both classes will spend the day at Universal Studios, but the A Capella class will leave in the afternoon to go to Central Los Angeles to see “Into the Woods” at the Ahmanson Theater. On Saturday, both classes will perform.
“You get to be critiqued and judged by someone other than your teacher,” music assistant Jan D’Annunzio said. “Every
body has different ideas on how you ought to sing things or play things. They might also see things [that the teacher] hasn’t seen.”
In addition, the groups also get on-the-spot practice to work on addressing critiques, DeVos said.
“Within this process, we also get a clinic,” DeVos said. “Right after we perform, one of the judges comes up and directs the orchestra and gives comments while he’s conducting.”
Senior and three year orchestra member Keith Sibal added that the competition gives the orchestra something to work up to.
“Going to the competitions gives us something to prepare for and other orchestras to compete against to raise our own standards,” Sibal said.
However, beyond just being in a performance setting and getting practice and critique in a real performance, the trip itself is just as important, if not more so. Students get the chance to know one another better and truly bond as classmates over the tour, D’Annunzio said.
“Tour is definitely a good time to get to know people better,” said senior and Chamber Choir member Alex Chang. “Choral work is already a lot about doing things together. You’re trying to create [one] thing out of many parts.”
D’Annunzio added to this, and said that in both A Capella and orchestra, a group-first mentality is vital.
“You have to be cohesive in an ensemble,” D’Annunzio said. “You have to care about who’s around you, you have to care about everyone else. It’s not about you it’s about the group.
D’Annunzio also said that going on tour inspires more dedication and commitment to success from the ensemble members.
“An ensemble is only as good as its worst player,” D’Annunzio said. “If everybody buys into the program, that usually creates better playing, because everyone wants to do well.”
And based on performance record, PHS has had exceptional buy in, as they have placed well in the past, D’Annunzio said.
“Essentially for A Capella, they’ve gotten golds,” D’Annunzio said. “I can’t remember a time when they didn’t get gold. They’ve done very well. I have every expectation that they will do just as well this year. There’s no reason they won’t.”
Although they have recently been doing slightly worse as of late, orchestra has also done well in previous years, DeVos said.
“We’ve been getting silver for the past few years, but before that we got gold for many years,” DeVos said.
However, awards and educational purposes aside, the thing that stands out about tour to all people involved is the fun.
“Last year we went to Disneyland, which was just chill,” Sibal said. “And being with orchestra people but not in class [was fun]. It’s just fun with being with classmates on overnight trips. It’s just a great experience.”
D’Annunzio also said that the memories created on tour will last far beyond the students’ involvement in performing arts.
“Those are things that you’ll remember when you’re 30 or 40 or 50,” D’Annunzio said. “It’s fun to be away where we can relax and joke and have fun together and not worry about behaving in class.”