Music festivals continue virtually

Annual CMEA festival, Homestead orchestra festival adapt to remote setting

Unlike any other year, the California Music Educator Association will be holding their annual festival remotely, due to the pandemic. The festival, which is held annually each spring, is an opportunity for California school music programs to perform and receive critiques, according to the CMEA website.

Differing from past festivals, this event will not be held live. Instead, band directors will send in a video for the adjudicators to review and provide comments, CMEA president-elect Anne Fennell said in a Zoom interview. 

School performances will not be available for other bands to watch, taking out the “festive” part of the festival, HHS head music director and CMEA executive board member John Burn said in a Zoom interview. 

HHS Jazz Ensemble performs Under My Skin by Frank Sinatra for the virtual CMEA festival. (Photo courtesy of John Burn)

Additionally, the usual sight-reading section will not be part of the festival this year, as well as the rating for each performance. Instead, the adjudicators will be giving back general feedback and comments.  

“As of Feb. 17, we have 51 entries already,” Fennell said. “This year, there will be endless spots since in-person time slots are limited and the opportunity to participate is also limited by who can get there.”

All band and orchestra members will participate in the CMEA festival on March 15, performing a variety of music selections. 

These include “Conga Del Fuego Nuevo” by Arturo Marquez, “Three Ayres from Gloucester” by Hugh Stuart, “The Cave You Fear” by Michael Markowski, “Chasing Sunlight” by Cait Nishimura, “Irish Legend” by Robert Kerr, arranged by Soon He Newbold and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” by Cole Porter, arranged by Nelson Riddle as recorded by Frank Sinatra.

“[The jazz band piece is a] vocal jazz, so a student from the trombone section is singing,” Burn said. “We’re doing the exact arrangement that Frank Sinatra did, which includes strings and orchestra players. We’re going to do that video in black and white to try and make it feel like it’s historically accurate.”

Besides the CMEA festival, orchestra members also participated in the annual Homestead Orchestra Festival on Feb. 27. Contrary to the CMEA festival, the orchestra festival livestreamed for everyone to view and also held a live Zoom session with the adjudicators, where participants received feedback, Burn said. 

Large ensembles from the Bay Area participated in the festival along with the HHS orchestra.  

“Aside from the fact that it wasn’t in person, the festival was enjoyable to see the pieces that people did and watching our work come together and seeing everybody play their own piece,” freshman violinist Beatrice Ho said. 

Music educators are trying their best to bring the same experience to student musicians virtually by continuing with the traditional festivals as motivation to students to continue playing their instruments during the pandemic, Burn said. 

“The wonderful thing [about technology during the pandemic] is that Zoom has pulled us all together, but I love hearing live music and we don’t get that opportunity [nowadays],” Fennell said. “I love being with people and we just have to do it in this medium. I feel lucky we’ve had the opportunity to do that.”