Orchestra program gearing up for concerts – some in person and others virtual
When it comes to making music, district elementary and high school Orchestra Director Anthony Fortuna said, “it’s so much more than playing the right notes.” At Bellefonte Area School District, he and middle school Orchestra Director Julie Renne hope to make it a great experience for students.
“I love that these kids are all here and just want to have fun making music on string instruments,” Fortuna said. “That’s what it’s about; that’s what it comes down to – kids having a good experience with music and what they get out of it.”
The orchestra program at all levels is preparing for concerts that begin as early as next month. At Bellefonte Area middle and high schools, there will be live shows – something that didn’t happen last school year under pandemic restrictions. At the elementary level, 126 students from each of the four buildings are working on virtual concerts, which will be aired on the district’s performing arts YouTube channel.
“It’s so much nicer to have the kids play for a real audience all together on a stage,” Fortuna said. “It feels much more validating. I think the kids are much more excited about it. Performing in front of the camera is fine, but there’s nothing more magical than playing for an audience.”
The high school’s combined holiday performance will be held Dec. 20 with shows from orchestra, band and choir. The string quintet, which consists of two violins, a viola, cello and bass, will also hold a mini concert in the morning for the study body leading up to the holiday break.
“The concerts are the result of many months of preparation and hard work by the students,” Renne said in an email. “The concert allows the students to showcase to their parents some of the skills they have been learning in the classroom.”
At the middle and high school, orchestra is a class. At the elementary school, it’s part of a pull-out program for fourth and fifth-grade students.
Concerts at the middle school will be held 7:30 p.m. Jan. 18 and May 23 at the middle school auditorium that includes the choir, as well. The middle school has 45 students involved, and interested students, Renne added, are welcome to join anytime without prior experience.
Heading into the new year, Fortuna said he’s hoping the high school will add another orchestra concert, but details are still in the works.
In January, 13 Bellefonte Area High School students will be showcased at the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association District 4 music festival. Students from Clearfield, Clinton, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata and Mifflin counties will also perform. Eligible students were director-selected and can continue to regional, state and national festivals.
In the past
As pandemic restrictions put a damper on live concerts, elementary and high school Orchestra Director Anthony Fortuna said that during the 2020-21 school year all concerts were held virtually. Students played in a large area of the school where physical distancing was practiced. Those performances were then streamed online. By the summer before the first day of the 2021-22 school year, middle and high school orchestra camps were held, where student participants were able to play two in-person concerts at St. John Lutheran Church in Bellefonte.
On the web
*By Brit Milazzo, public relations director, BASD