Three Loomis Chaffee student musicians joined music students from across the country for the 2020 National Association of Music Educators All-National Honors Ensembles, a two-day virtual music festival on January 7–8.
Senior Clara Chen and junior Isabella Jiang performed on clarinet with the festival’s concert band, and senior Baihan “Tom” Zhang performed as a tenor vocalist in the mixed chorus. Applicants were selected for participation through competitive video auditions and then were required to learn and rehearse their pieces in advance of the event. During the festival, ensemble and sectional rehearsals, masterclasses, and music workshops all took place online. The rehearsals culminated in a final concert recording.
According to the association’s website, the All-National Honor Ensembles represent the top performing high school musicians in the United States. More than a musical showcase, the honors ensemble program is designed as a comprehensive educational experience for participants.
Music students at Loomis have taken part in the national ensembles for many years. The events have been held all over the United States, including in Nashville, Tennessee; Orlando, Florida; and Dallas, Texas. Moved online this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the virtual forum for the 2020 festival was a first for the Pelican musicians, but they said they made the best of the opportunity.
“The experience was unique and well organized, which allowed me to learn a lot and still enjoy the experience despite never leaving my room,” Isabella said, adding, “I would always prefer to be in-person … but this year's program still brought me many new perspectives and inspiring ideas toward music.”
Clara, who has attended in-person state and regional music festivals in the past, noted that the online forum meant there were fewer all-in rehearsals and more opportunities for discussions about the repertoire and music in general.
“My favorite part of the experience was the masterclasses, where we divided into our instrument groups and had a professor give us some tips on how to improve our playing abilities,” Clara said. She especially enjoyed a webinar masterclass with the world-renowned quintet Canadian Brass.