Band and orchestra on the road

Cindy Liu, Staff Writer

With a flurry of after-school practices and securing airline tickets, the Diamond Bar High School Symphony Orchestra prepares to travel across the country to compete against 11 of the most elite high school orchestras in the nation.

Meanwhile, the DBHS Wind Ensemble will travel to the Skywalker Sound Studio, home to the original soundscape creations of  “Star Wars,” to record John Mackey’s 30-minute symphony “Wine-Dark Sea.”

From March 1 to 4, the DBHS Symphony Orchestra will stay in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to compete in the National Orchestra Festival, hosted yearly by the American String Teachers Association. There, they will perform Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6, Op. 74 (Pathétique).

“It’s considered probably one of the Top 10 symphonies ever written and it’s a very emotional piece,” music director Steve Acciani said. “We have a group this year that’s very mature, so they’re able to not only handle the technical demands of the music but [also] do the emotional side of it. It gives them an opportunity to truly express themselves at a level that’s beyond any high school group I’ve ever heard.”

They will also have the opportunity to participate in clinics and work with accomplished musicians. For the five days in which the orchestra will be in Pittsburgh, students are free to sightsee and visit nearby colleges in their free time.

“It’s my first time going on a trip as part of an orchestra,” sophomore percussionist Johannah Chung said. “It’s exciting to see the different atmosphere.”

After the group placed first in the National Orchestra Cup at New York last year, Acciani has held high expectations for the orchestra. However, since the Pittsburgh competition will have competitors on a significantly higher level, the orchestra has been holding one to two rehearsals outside of class time every week to prepare.

“I think with the talent level we have, we’re going to have quite a bit of success,” Acciani said. “The biggest challenge is making sure that we stay as prepared as we are [and] not letting the trip side of things get in the way of the performance.”

A few days before the orchestra will leave for Pittsburgh, the DBHS Wind Ensemble will head to San Francisco to record their piece. They will stop at the renowned Royce Concert Hall in UCLA before finally going to the Skywalker Sound Studio.

As this is the first time the group is going to the studio, music director Marie Sato will also have her first experience conducting the band there.

To prepare, Sato has been listening to recordings of “Wine Dark Sea” every day.

“There’s technical moments and aggressive parts but also very emotional and pretty parts as well,” Sato said. “It’s exhausting but also emotional at the same time. I try to really capture what the composer’s intents are [when I conduct].”