The Florida Bandmaster Association Solo & Ensemble Music Competition is an annual event held in schools throughout the United States. As has been done in years past, Scheck Hillel students recently participated in this prestigious competition. The participating students spanned all shapes and sizes, ranging from seniors in high school to young middle schoolers. These students, dedicated members of the school Band program, took it upon themselves to select, practice, and eventually perform a solo in front of a single judge.
When asked about the challenge that performing for a judge presents, Josh Schmutter, a 10th Grade Alto Saxophonist, said, “This experience really gave me a perspective on performing arts. It’s different when you perform in front of one person instead of 500 people; the pressure is on. Months of preparation can really determine the quality of a piece. Practicing each detail of the song gives the judge less to critique, so I learned to focus on the little things throughout the piece. Doing this every year gives me the opportunity to test my musical ability and it’s always rewarding when you receive a good score after impressing the judge. You only get out of it what you put into it. There’s no easy way out of this process and that’s why it’s such a special experience.” Schmutter presents a unique approach to this performance, as he looks forward to the challenge and hopes to surpass the judge’s expectations.
Each musical piece has a corresponding difficulty rating helping students determine what piece is right for them. This year, high school junior, Jonathan Abbo, played a Level 7 piece, the most difficult level assignable for any piece. Students are graded by a judge based upon their performance of their pieces and the understanding they display in relation to said piece. In order to qualify to compete in a State Competition, a student must play a piece with a difficulty level of 5 or higher and must receive a Superior grade, the highest possible, from the judge.
This year, junior Jayme Podgorowiez and sophomore Joi Alon will be representing Hillel as they seek to receive “Superior” scores for their performances on the state level. When asked about the most important milestones on her journey, Jayme Podgorowiez said, “I think the most important thing to me about this whole experience is how much I have learned and how much I have grown as a clarinetist with the support of Mr. Villa and my fellow musicians. When I started to play clarinet in the sixth grade, I set a goal for myself to make it to the State Competition and it will be my honor to represent Hillel’s band program in the Spring along with Joi Alon.” It is this enthusiasm and dedication that is exemplary of the behavior and mannerisms expected from performers in such a demanding competition.
This competition was extended to any ambitious member of the band of apt ability and dedication, including members in middle school. As one of the youngest students participating in this year’s competition, 8th grader, Jonathan Nichols, is not shaken by the age and experience of his peers. “I personally didn’t think about the older people so I would not feel any pressure about it. I tried to focus on myself and do the best I could. Some advice I would give to other young people is that pressure is created by themselves. If you think of others and how well they did, the pressure will continuously stack, to a point where it becomes unbearable. If you focus on yourself and your own performance, there will be no pressure to worry about.” Nichols presents a very good argument and one that thankfully holds very true throughout the band. Rather than viewing each other as opponents and competition, these students seek to help those around them and aid them in any way in order to make their performances as strong as possible.
Preparing and ultimately performing a solo for the Solo & Ensemble Competition is no small feat and is one that takes significant drive and commitment from any participating student. Sixth year Band Director Matt Villa has worked tirelessly to ensure that each participating student is prepared to the fullest and ready to deliver when judgement time comes. It is thanks to these committed students, along with their devoted band instructors, that Hillel can participate in this prestigious competition on a yearly basis, bringing honor to the school’s name.
Below are the students who participated in this years’ rendition Solo and Ensemble Competition, along with the score they received
Superior Ranking- Highest Grade
Joi Alon, Grade 10 (Alto Saxophone)
Daniel Bloom, Grade 12 (Alto Saxophone)
Alexandra Fincheltub, Grade 12 (Clarinet)
Eitan Garzon, Grade 7 (Clarinet)
Zachary Lemmer, Grade 8 (Flute)
Jeremy Nichols, Grade 9 (Snare Drum)
Jonathan Nichols, Grade 8 (Piano)
Jayme Podgorowiez, Grade 11 (Clarinet)
Excellent Ranking- Second Highest Grade
Jonathan Abbo, Grade 11 (Alto Saxophone)
Michael Berenstein, Grade 10 (Alto Saxophone)
Raquel Dimitri, Grade 11 (Trumpet)
Eli Gelb, Grade 10 (Tenor Saxophone)
Emily Rodman, Grade 11 (Clarinet)
Joshua Schmutter, Grade 10 (Alto Saxophone)
Elliot Shiro, Grade 10 (Alto Saxophone)
Danielle Waijman, Grade 11(Trumpet)