Don’t Discount the AHS Orchestra

Don't Discount the AHS Orchestra

Onovu Otitigbe-Dangerfield, Staff Writer

Some might say, orchestra? Who cares? As an orchestra student in the Albany City School District for the past five years, I have dealt with the cold fact that no one comes to the concert to hear the orchestra.

People are always so fascinated by the overwhelming dynamics of the band, the melodic songbirds of the chorus, and then there’s us, whaling like there’s no tomorrow on the high-pitched E string. Although that may have been my reality in elementary and middle school, I have to defend what I hold close to me.

Although instruments in the orchestra such as the cello or the violin have the ability to produce music beautiful enough to bring tears to the eye, that kind of magic doesn’t happen overnight and when it does happen it isn’t easy.

Kelly Diehl, the high school director for the orchestra, has expressed that out of the advanced orchestra made of some 30+ students, three take private lessons. In the band, the roles are reversed as all but about two, have independent instructional periods. Coming into the high school, the extent of our orchestral knowledge also deviates drastically so everyone is not always on the same page. This is just a result of the quality of education we get from our respective elementary and middle schools, so as a result we have to adapt to make sure everyone is able to perform at the best of their abilities.

In addition, the quality of the instruments the school provides are not always top-tier. Fortunately, we have just received a grant for new violins, cellos, violas and a bass – a blessing from above – but only last month, our bassist was forced to play with an instrument now 10% gorilla glue.

Furthermore, what a lot of individuals don’t realize about orchestral instruments is the difficulty of being able to stay in tune. It is a lot more noticeable when a violin is in 5th position on the E string and is a little off than when a flute that is covered by percussion and brass instruments plays a wrong pitch. Especially with the relatively small size of our advanced and regular orchestra, all the odds are against us.

In spite of all this, our director does devote herself endlessly to her students, providing lessons after school and during the day any period she is available. Additionally, since joining the Albany High Orchestra family, she has pushed us to pursue higher level music that inspires us to do better.

Most recently, we competed in the NYSSMA Majors Festival, the first orchestra from AHS to attend in over twenty years. With the insurmountable factors that could have resulted in failure we emerged with a silver medal, after evaluation from two professional judges. Not too shabby at all.

We have really “started from the bottom and now we here” (I know that made you cringe). With the changes happening at Albany High, we are on a fast track to being the main act, show stopping ensemble at the next concert.