ORHS Music Concert – May 24th

Last week. the string orchestra celebrated the first class to study solely string instruments from fifth grade until twelfth grade at the final music concert of the year.

After a successful winter concert in December, on Wednesday, May 24th, the chorus, band, and orchestra worked together again to produce a spring concert that displayed all the hard work that the groups put in. This year’s graduating class in orchestra were the first group to choose their instruments for middle school in fourth grade and not play band instruments in elementary school. Since then, the music program at ORHS has seen much growth in numbers and support through things like the middle school concert hall, where this concert took place. 

The chorus took the stage first, led by chorus teacher Jarika Olberg. They sang four songs: two of which were well known pop songs “Africa” by Toto and “You Belong With Me” by Taylor Swift. “There’s something very raw and beautiful when it’s just song. It was such a small group, I know some of them were out sick, but I found it so moving,” said Jessica Raspa, an audience member and parent to senior violinist Eleanor Raspa (‘23).  

Next, the band played three songs led by their teacher Marc LaForce. Raspa reflected on the band’s performance and said, “LaForce brings such enthusiasm and energy to the work that he does with the kids.” The band also performed the song “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King as a combined group with the string orchestra. This piece was conducted by Andrea von Oeyen, and LaForce provided last minute accompaniment on piano due to fellow music teacher Jacob Boulay also calling out sick. Even with the unexpected bumps in the road, the groups were able to adjust and still perform very well. 

Waverly Oake-Libow (‘23) is a senior violist in orchestra and reflected on the concert and said, “it was really bittersweet — more sweet than bitter — because it was weird to think about how I’ve been [playing] for so long.” As a senior, this was her last concert after eight years of playing. She said, “it’s always been a part of my routine. It’s kind of crazy because it was probably the most consistent part of my high school experience.” 

At the concert, von Oeyen took a moment to note her seniors that she spent eight years teaching and gave each a carnation in recognition of their years of hard work and commitment. Raspa commented that during the ceremony, “thinking about the commitment that the seventeen recognized seniors made to this organization and learning was tremendous.” 

Oake-Libow was part of the first group to choose their instrument through an instrument petting zoo. This was when von Oeyen and other music teachers came to the elementary schools with instruments for students to see, touch, and try out before they chose what they would do for the next eight years. von Oeyen said, “this group of seniors is the first to authentically choose these instruments.” She continued, “every time I get to have groups from start to end and see the growth in abilities and maturity is so rewarding.” 

Senior violist Maggie Farwell said, “I am very grateful to have chosen orchestra. I think it was an amazing experience and I met a lot of wonderful people.” She and Oake-Libow are both unsure of whether they will continue to play the viola in college, but Farwell remarked, “I think that being able to play an instrument is something that I am really proud to be able to do.” 

Over the past four years the orchestra has grown so much at ORHS that they needed to change the class location from the auditorium to the multi-purpose room to accommodate the growing numbers. “I think that you’re going to see a lot of growth and a lot of changes in terms of reworking some things. We’re a very reflective group of people and we do as much as we can to improve,” said von Oeyen when asked about the future of the music program at ORHS.  

Orchestra is a very unique class in the sense that von Oeyen teaches all of her students from fifth to twelfth grade. “Mrs. von Oeyen is a very dedicated teacher. It’s kind of crazy to think about how she teaches at the middle school and the high school. She knows everybody so personally, even though she knows almost half of the students in the district,” said Oake-Libow.  

von Oeyen shared, “I feel very lucky to have the job that I have and to teach the kids that I teach here. Every year that I have to say goodbye to a class is hard because of how many years I have known you all. It’s a sad time but also so rewarding.”