Orchestra takes center stage at MMEA conference

“The orchestra accompanied us, so that was really fun but so was performing with the orchestra. I really enjoyed it. My last year was definitely my best experience. It was really great to play with other people who were so passionate about music.” – senior Melanie Avery

Samantha Johnson

For the first time in history, the BSHS orchestra traveled to the Lake of the Ozarks for the annual Missouri Music Educators Association (MMEA) conference last weekend. Performing alongside of 32 other age-diverse ensembles, Director Paige Mundhenke was thrilled to put her students on display for music educators state-wide.

When I heard the news, I was extremely excited for my students and how hard they had worked.  I was also very nervous as performances at this event is highly respected and scrutinized by the music teachers of Missouri,” Mundhenke said.

While excitement kept orchestra students interested, sophomore Ellise Wright admitted that redundancy could get in the way of having a productive practice. However, Mundhenke kept her students engaged by setting a steady rehearsal pace.

“We did have a clinician come in and rehearse the music with us, so we could have a new standpoint and learn lots of new methods. There were times toward the end of a rehearsal, because it gets redundant playing the same pieces over and over for months, where (Mundhenke) would have us get up to stretch and move,” Wright said. “We tried to practice different sections, switch pieces from day to day, and that was to keep us interested,” she acknowledged.

Because this was not their normal audience, Mundhenke kept a level-head and hoped to put on the best performance her students had to offer.

“At normal concert events, most of our audience consists of parents and friends. They would tell us we performed well in almost every circumstance. Performing at MMEA requires a whole other level of preparedness and musicality,” Mundhenke said. “As a director, it was a lot of pressure to perform well. Preparing something for months at a time and then presenting it to individuals who do what you do for a living is terrifying,” she added.

Many BSHS performing arts students, including senior Melanie Avery, were honored for their efforts in state ensembles. All-State members traveled to Ozarks last Wednesday and stayed three nights at the beloved Tan-Tar-A resort. Aside from creating great music, Avery spent time making new friends and quirky memories.

“We did silly things, like made friends and played music in the elevators while people got in and road up and down,” Avery said.

Prior to the performance, Mundhenke could sense that her kids were tense–until they were briefly interrupted.

“While we were warming up on stage, I could tell everyone (including myself) was nervous. After we had been there for about 5 minutes, the fire alarm went off. It added a little humor to the whole process and I think it made everyone relax,” Mundhenke said.

The unexpected icebreaker made students concentrate more on the performance at hand.

“We were extremely focused and having a good time during the performance. It was an amazing feeling to have worked so hard and have such a great performance,” she concluded.

Students agreed that the energy on-stage was electric and engaged in the performance. Avery most enjoyed a duet she shared with senior Samuel Aubuchon.

“The orchestra accompanied us, so that was really fun but so was performing with the orchestra. I really enjoyed it. My last year was definitely my best experience. It was really great to play with other people who were so passionate about music,” Avery said.