Orchestra ‘family’ enters competition season


Orchestra Director Brett Nelsen prepares his students for Area auditions.

Emily Burleson, Staff Writer

It is competition season for orchestra students. Region Orchestra auditions were on Saturday, Oct. 13, and resulted in 21 students accepted into Region 23 this year, with five alternates also admitted. Area and All-state orchestra auditions were Saturday, Oct. 27, at Seven Lakes High School.

“We’re happy we’ve got a lot of competition in our little region,” Orchestra Director Brett Nelsen said. “The other KISD high schools, especially that little orange school down the way [Seven Lakes], offer some competition. We have to compete against the High School for Visual and Performing Arts (HSPVA), over in HISD, and Bellaire. Bellaire is kind of like an inner-city Cinco Ranch.”

Roughly a fourth of the orchestra students tried out for Region orchestra this year.

“I think we’ve had about fifty kids try out for Region orchestra this year,” Nelsen said. “Region Orchestra is hard. It’s really challenging music and it’s also very competitive, but it’s perfect for kids that really want that extra level of challenge.”

In order to prepare for the competition season, some orchestra students began practicing their music in May.

“This year I practiced a bit more than in the past, but still not as much as I would have liked to –about four hours a week,” senior violinist Katherine Yu said.

Although Nelsen wishes to have many students be a part of Region orchestra, he points out that nerves make a big impact on a students’ placement in Region, Area, or All-state.

“Sometimes the auditions just come down to a literal crap shoot,” Nelsen said. “It’s how well the kids play at that particular time on that particular day, and if they played the same thing all over again the next day, you’d have a different order of students. I tell them, it’s kind of like your class rank or GPA – don’t validate your existence on this earth based on how people perceive you or some arbitrary number that’s assigned to you.”

Even though nerves effect many students, sophomore Zoe Heuser was able to overcome hers.

“I wasn’t as nervous as some people get, mostly because the other bass players are like brothers,” Heuser said. “We’re all very supportive of one another, as corny as it sounds. I am human, and therefore I was nervous, but you just have to shove it away and play your best. Luckily I did, and it ended up being one of my best auditions ever, landing me safely in the Symphony [Area orchestra].”

Nelsen, to help his students understand the impact nerves make on an audition, selected a random student and asked her to play a difficult piece in front of her peers.

“She was so mad at me; she was on the verge of tears,” Nelsen said. “But I told her, ‘I’m so proud of you for doing that. Now you know how you’re going to react when you get nervous, and you’re going to have the best darn audition.’ And she did; she came in third or fourth place in Region.”

Even though Region, Area, and All-state are competitions involving individual students and are relatively unrelated to the orchestra program as a whole, Nelsen explains that orchestra is still a family.

“What I tell all the kids before we get off the bus at Region is, ‘I know you’ve been focusing all this time about something for you, but remember, orchestra’s a family, so at the end of the day – win, lose or draw – be there for one another.’ And I think that’s really made a difference,” Nelsen said.