Young musicians take their talents to big stage

March 4, 2014

By Neil Pierson

Heliqiong Sun began playing the piano when she was 4. Ten years later, it’s the instrument she’s most proficient with.

But Sun, an eighth-grader at Beaver Lake Middle School, has some versatility. She picked up the violin three years ago, and has mastered it enough that she can be considered among the best violinists in the state for her age group.

Photos by Neil Pierson Named to the Washington Music Educators Association All-State Orchestra were (from left, during recent school rehearsals) Beaver Lake Middle School violinist Heliqiong Sun; Pacific Cascade Middle School seventh-grade trumpist Sarah Hall, trombonist Emily Ko, bass clarinetist Joshua Lee and eight-grade clarinetist Austin Denton.

Photos by Neil Pierson
Named to the Washington Music Educators Association All-State Orchestra were (from left, during recent school rehearsals) Beaver Lake Middle School violinist Heliqiong Sun.

She was among 58 middle-school students from the Issaquah School District selected for the Washington Music Educators Association’s Junior All-State groups. Students from across the state converged Feb. 15 in Yakima, and they spent several hours rehearsing before the three choirs, two bands and one orchestra took the stage that evening for their performances.

Sun, who was one of two Beaver Lake orchestra members chosen for all-state, said the one-day schedule was a bit grinding. It was tough to stay focused, and she often needed to stand and stretch.

“My friends joke around that it was like school with six periods of orchestra, stuck in one room,” she said.

At Pacific Cascade Middle School, five members of Jeff Miller’s band classes were selected for all-state: Joshua Lee and Austin Denton (clarinet), Zach Dunkelberger (French horn), Sarah Hall (trumpet) and Emily Ko (trombone).

Denton, an eighth-grader who has been playing the clarinet for about four years, enjoys a wide variety of instruments. He also plays tenor saxophone, alto sax, flute and keyboards, and he plans to learn to play the violin this summer.

His experience at all-state was a positive one.

“It was really unique that I got to be with a lot of other people who share the same experiences as me and also enjoy music as much as me,” Denton said.

Hall, a seventh-grader, didn’t start playing trumpet until last year. She said she plans to keep playing for the foreseeable future, and would like to join a jazz band in high school because that is among her favorite music.

For Hall, music has provided challenges that she enjoys conquering.

“Most of the time, when I get new music, it seems pretty complicated,” she said. “Then, when I learn it, it kind of feels like I actually accomplished something.”

Pine Lake Middle School had 10 choir members selected for all-state. Sixth-graders Harry Rosenthal and Haydn Fitzgerald were among them, and they credited their teacher, Tina Worthington, for improving their singing voices.

Fitzgerald’s all-state choir had the difficult task of singing in Spanish and Russian. He said he had a tough time memorizing music in a foreign language, but the work paid off.

“Being with people who are so serious about music was a great experience, because I was also pushing myself to be as great as the other people,” Fitzgerald said.

The students received music well in advance of the trip, but because they had so little time to rehearse together, the difficulty level of most pieces were surprisingly easy.

“I was expecting it to be a lot harder, but it was a lot more well-prepared than how our orchestra (at Beaver Lake) would prepare the pieces,” Sun said.

“In terms of some of the stuff we did, it was a lot easier than I expected, but I wouldn’t say it’s easy,” Rosenthal added. “It’s really not easy to do some of the things, because there’s so many things to remember.”


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