After a tedious judging process and listening to countless audition CDs, director of bands William V. Johnson, symphony conductor David Arrivée, and director of jazz studies Paul Rinzler have chosen 180 high school students from all over California to play together at the All-State Festival Concert during Open House weekend.
“We do this every year and have developed a state-wide reputation for excellence, and bring in some of the finest high school students as well as bring to our campus world-renowned conductors,” Johnson said.
Arrivée said some of the things he looks for in students for the string section includes “how in tune they play, how they are able to maneuver their bow, and especially in terms of seating, you listen to if they are actually conveying the music with soul or if it’s just mechanical.”
Amazingly enough, practice for the chosen students amazingly enough only begins two days before the actual concert.
“It starts Friday evening and all day Saturday,” Johnson said. “They rehearse Sunday morning, then there is a big banquet in the early afternoon and after the concert will begin.”
Each year, a new repertoire is chosen by the guest conductors; Arrivée said that one of the pieces being played by the symphony orchestra this year was composed by Aaron Copland.
“The pieces are for really large orchestras so it should be fun,” Arrivée said.
The symphony orchestra will start the performance, and the winner of the solo competition will follow.
The solo competition starts Saturday morning and anyone can perform before a panel of judges to vie for the chance to perform alone on Sunday.
After the soloist, the jazz band plays, and ending with the wind orchestra.
What makes this year’s concert different for the symphony is that it is an actual full symphony, Arrivée said.
“Two years ago, we had string players, the next year we had high school students playing the woodwinds and Cal Poly students playing the brass,” he said. “But this year it’s all high school students playing the instruments.”
Julian Wachner will be conducting the Festival Symphony Orchestra.
Wachner has directed an array of musicians over the years, including the Music Academy of the West Chamber Orchestra and the McGill Classical Orchestra.
Conducting the Festival Jazz Band will be guitarist Bruce Forman, who will also perform as a guest soloist.
His work has been featured in Clint Eastwood’s Academy Award-winning film “Million Dollar Baby,” and his résumé boasts performing and recording credits that include Freddie Hubbard and Joe Henderson.
The Festival Wind Orchestra will be conducted by Laszlo Marosi, who was twice awarded the Artisjus prize by the Hungarian Composers Union, as well as the FAME prize for his conducting on an international level.
Johnson said that it’s “always an absolutely spectacular concert” a lot of variety that will not disappoint its audience.
The concert commences at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center. Ticket prices range from $8 to $19 depending on student, senior or general admission status.