Orchestrating a musical victory in the city that doesn’t sleep, 138 students from Diamond Bar High School competed in the National Orchestra Cup competition in New York City earlier this month. Placing first in the competition, the orchestra added yet another trophy to their collection, winning the Grand Champion award.
“I felt overwhelmed with joy because we didn’t think we had a chance at winning at all,” sophomore Frankie Ye said.
In preparation for the competition, students practiced long hours for the past several months. According to music director Steve Acciani, the piece they performed, Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10, was an incredibly challenging piece. Leading up to the trip, orchestra held sectionals twice a week, weekend practices and brought in coaches to help prepare the students for success at the.
“There is always going to be a struggle because we try to play music that is beyond what any high schools can do, so we are pushing them to really high level,” Acciani said.
Not only did the orchestra compete, a saxophone quartet consisting of sophomore Albert Guo, juniors Jonathan Tan and Kyle Kato and senior Ryan Li was invited to open up the competition with two pieces: “Mountain Roads” by David Maslanka and “Tango Virtuoso” by Thierry Escaich.
“I was very nervous yet excited because it’s a very rare opportunity for high school chamber groups to be performing in this recital hall,” Tan said. The performances were held in the Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on March 9.
The orchestra competed against some of the top high school orchestras across the nation, including those from Texas, Florida, Indiana, Arkansas and Pennsylvania.
“I recall getting chills while playing and hearing things that I’d never heard before from rehearsals because of the acoustics of the hall was so good,” senior concertmaster Shirley Dong said.
They played the first of the four of the movements of the piece for the panel of judges and the rest for the audience. The award ceremony immediately followed after their performance. On top of winning the National Orchestra cup, the orchestra brought home more awards including participation, best woodwind soloist for Andrew Chang, best brass section and a tie with the orchestra from Santa Monica for the best string section award.
“There were two runner-ups, Santa Monica and us, and then there was a suspenseful announcement for the winner,” Dong said, “Super loud cheering, especially from our orchestra could be heard since we have so many members.”
The trip was not solely focused on the competition. Students had the chance to see the Broadway musical “Wicked,” take a college tour of Columbia University, attend a dinner cruise on the Spirit of New York and watch the New York Philharmonic perform Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, featuring famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
“The trip will definitely be one of my most memorable experiences of high school,” Dong said. “I feel so thankful for everyone who made it all possible; other orchestra members, chaperones, teacher, and coaches.”