James River Day School

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January 30, 2020

Last week, I reported to you about the success of our band students at the VBODA district auditions. This week, the spotlight shifts to our orchestra program. Last Saturday, over 200 seventh through ninth grade students from more than 30 middle and high schools gathered for the South Central West Junior Regional Orchestra competitive auditions. Thirteen of our seventh and eighth grade orchestra students tried out, and six of them made it! This extraordinary success is testament to the hard work of these students and their teacher, Mrs. Leigh Berkley.
Success in these auditions requires more than just technical ability. The ability to be on stage, alone, and to perform at a high level in front of strangers requires a special blend of talent, confidence, and grit.
Congratulations to the seventh and eighth graders who tried out! It takes real courage and tenacity to audition this way.  We had a seventh grader make A orchestra, 12th chair, 2nd violin part - 26th out of all violinists! An eighth grader made B orchestra, 5th chair, 1st violin part - 35th out of all violinists! Another seventh grader made B orchestra, 18th chair, first violin part - 48th out of all violinists! And, she also made district band two weekends ago. We had two eighth grade cellists make it: one made A orchestra, 11th chair cello! (Yes, 11th out of all cellists!) and one made made B orchestra, 12th chair - 23rd out of all cellists! And one more eighth grader was selected as a bassist and placed in the B orchestra, 4th chair - 8th out of all bassists!
The poise, maturity, talent, and hard-earned skills of our music students never cease to amaze me. Leigh Berkley and Paddy Braunstein have built a music program which gives our children an invaluable outlet for their creativity and a separate kind of success, apart from academics or sports. Whether a student is a vocalist, violinist, trumpeter, or percussionist, they each have learned to read music, perform on a stage, and manage their “performance nerves.” And as Leigh noted, there is nothing like a performance to hold musicians accountable for the work they’ve done to learn a piece of music or master their instrument. As group members and as individuals, they have learned practice pays off as they work together to create beautiful music. Those are some pretty terrific life lessons! I am so proud of these students and of our music program overall.