High school musicians meet composer, perform at Symphony Hall

Posted: Wednesday, May 25th 2016


Composer Frank Ticheli conducts students at Symphony Hall.

More than 400 student-musicians from eight high schools not only worked with a renown composer and musician, as well as musicians from the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, but performed at Symphony Hall in the first-of-its-kind collaboration between the Symphony and San Diego Unified.

Students from Henry, Mira Mesa, Morse, Point Loma, Serra, San Diego, Scripps Ranch and University City high schools performed two musical selections before renowned composer Frank Ticheli during the April 23 San Diego Symphony High School Band Festival at the Jacobs Music Center Copley Symphony Hall.

"We were able to focus on expressing the piece as the composer, Ticheli, originally envisioned it," said Maya Gabby, an 11th-grade trumpet player from San Diego High School. "Additionally, I am honored and grateful to have had a chance to have played at Symphony Hall.”

The full-day festival, a collaboration between the San Diego Unified School District Visual and Performing Arts Department and the San Diego Symphony, gave more than 400 students the chance to perform onstage at Copley Symphony Hall, to perform a work by a composer Ticheli, and receive insight into the music by composer Ticheli.

For teachers, it was an opportunity to receive feedback from one of the nation's premier music educators. After each band's presentation, composer Ticheli joined the students and teacher onstage to  provide coaching and feedback on the music they had just performed.

“To be able to perform in front of someone as knowledgeable and revered as Frank Ticheli was both a surreal and exciting opportunity," said Megan Nguyen, a 12th grade flute player from Mira Mesa High School. "It was most definitely a highlight of my experiences, as part of the Wind Ensemble, to be able to play such great literature for the person who wrote it.”

Professor of Composition at the University of Southern California, Ticheli is an American composer of orchestral, choral, chamber, and concert band works. A number of his works have become standards in concert-band repertoire.

For music teachers, it was also a great learning experience to not only work with composer Ticheli but to see her students performing at Symphony Hall.

“I was thrilled to conduct on this professional stage and in such a beautiful space with my students," said Jeanne Christensen, the band director at Mira Mesa High School. "It was a wonderful experience to prepare music selections with my Wind Ensemble and then have the very composer of the music literature present to give us instant feedback."

"Frank Ticheli was energetic, insightful, and great to work with. My group and I would do it all again in a second! Thank you to SDUSD and to the San Diego Symphony for collaborating to make this Band Festival possible. It was truly a great moment for all of us at Mira Mesa.”

Ticheli has appeared as guest conductor of his music at Carnegie Hall, at many American universities and music festivals, and in cities throughout the world including Beijing, Shanghai, London, Manchester, Singapore, Rome, Sydney, Schladming, Austria, and numerous cities throughout Japan.

The collaboration between the district, Ticheli and the San Diego Symphony also brought members of the orchestra to school campuses for rehearsals of Ticheli's compositions. Among the visitors to schools was Sameer Patel, the Symphony's Assistant Conductor. Patel is continuing his involvement with San Diego Unified School District young musicians, as he's been a conductor at the annual high school honors concerts and continues to be a vital part of the district's music festivities.

San Diego Unified's Visual and Performing Arts Department director Russ Sperling said the collaboration is not only valuable for the students, but it shows the commitment of the San Diego community to providing arts-education opportunities for students.

“This  professional exchange between the San Diego Symphony and the San Diego Unified School District is an absolutely rich and exciting new partnership that is poised to expand over the years," he said. "We absolutely look forward to future collaborations with our local San Diego Symphony.”

For more information on San Diego Unified's Visual and Performing Arts Program, visit its website at sandiegounified.org/vapa.

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