The Samohi Orchestra consistently performs at some of the highest levels in the state, with students routinely mastering college level scores, so it is no surprise that this year’s graduates are moving on to top tier music programs across the country. What is unique about this year’s graduates is that for almost half of their high school career they were unable to practice their music in person or even in unison.
During the pandemic, it was impossible for the orchestra to play together due to time lags over Zoom. For virtual concerts, students would pre-record their instruments and they would then be edited together to construct each musical piece. Nevertheless, the seniors worked persistently and tenaciously, continuing to form close bonds through virtual practice before reuniting in triumphant harmony last spring.
“I think that this year’s seniors have been especially resilient… this is an especially strong group of students and I get the sense that a lot of them don’t take as much for granted,” said Jason Aiello, director of orchestras. “I think this year, they’re treasuring some of these opportunities.”
Thanks to the students’ dedication to their craft and the support of the music department staff, opportunities have been plentiful. Around 60 orchestra students participated in the Honor Orchestras put on by the California Orchestra Directors Association in December, 24 participated in the All State Orchestra in February, and 15 students dedicated their spring break to participating in a festival put on by the Southern California Band and Orchestra Directors Association. In addition, they performed at three school concerts and the symphony orchestra now readying to play at Carnegie Hall on June 14.
Five of the graduating orchestra players have declared music majors at prestigious university programs. Chloe Schwartz, violin, is going to Vanderbilt University; Ethan LaChapelle, cello, is going to Oberlin Conservatory; Ian DiMundo, trumpet, is going to St. Olaf College; and Emma Crawford, oboe, and Luca Lesko, bass, are going to UCLA.
This year Schwartz and Crawford were awarded with the Glen Katz Memorial Scholarship in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the orchestra.
“Those two have really been standouts, not only musically, but in leadership positions, being involved and active in the orchestra program and music program in general,” said Aiello.
Crawford, who has been the principal oboist of the symphony orchestra for all four years of high school, was this year’s orchestra student board president and a drum major in the marching band.
“She is just completely involved and immersed in really everything music here at Samo,” said Aiello.
Schwartz is a violinist in the symphony and chamber orchestras who has performed in numerous honor ensembles throughout her high school career.
“What I really respect about Chloe is during the pandemic there was a period of time when she couldn’t play her instrument and so, rather than go and leave music, she spent the time researching composers, practicing mentally and researching pieces,” said Aiello.