Orchestra students represent Sequoyah at district


Guest conductor Dr. Marilyn Seelman directs the orchestra. Twelve students from the string orchestra program attended the competitive District Honors Program this year. Photo provided by Marcus Hawkins

While many students were enjoying their September break, others were hard at work preparing for an audition. October 13th was a stressful one for orchestra students desiring to participate in the selective District Honors, and possibly All-State program in the near future.  

The audition process began earlier to be able to try out for All-State, and orchestra students had to pass a first round of auditions. This allowed them to participate in a regional District Honors program, which is comprised of middle and high schools from Cherokee County and surrounding counties.  

District Honors Orchestra took place last semester, and the preparation was challenging; students had to learn an etude, an entirely new piece, and multiple unorthodox scales to audition. The event itself was similarly difficult; students had to learn and polish several compositions in the span of 48 hours.  

In the front row to the left of the conductor, sat junior Kelci Verdon as concert master, the highest seated first violin selected to lead the orchestra. Verdon, who has been in the school orchestra and has taken private lessons since seventh grade, is the concert master at Sequoyah as well. In order to earn the concert master position, she put in a lot of effort. 

“I practiced a lot for the audition and went to private lessons to perfect my etude,” Verdon said. “I practiced every night up until the audition, probably for 30 to 45 minutes every night.” 

Verdon has performed at District Honors Orchestra a total of four times, including this year.  

“It was very stressful, but overall was a great experience.” Verdon said. 

In addition to participating in District Honors Orchestra, Verdon also qualified to audition for All-State. However, she found herself unable to audition.  

“I found myself very busy and too stressed about other things, and I didn’t practice enough for the second round.” Verdon said. “But I plan to [audition] next year.”  

Senior Laura Henderson was also the head of her section at District Honors Orchestra: the violas. She has been playing for six years but has never taken private lessons. Henderson’s practice was also intense and consistent. 

“It varied because of my schedule, but I would take anywhere from one to three hours a day,” Henderson said. “I didn’t have so many intervals of practicing and not practicing, instead of practicing for one week and skipping the next, I practiced two to three days a week.” 

Henderson enjoyed District Honors Orchestra this year, especially with her leadership position. 

“It was fun, and it was a different perspective to be first chair, though I feel like the music selection could have been better,” Henderson said.  

Freshman Alex Lammens played the violin at last year’s District Honors Orchestra. However, this year she decided to switch to the double bass.  

“Going from treble clef to bass clef was the hardest part because I still read [music] in treble clef sometimes,” Lammens said.  

Her routine was just as intensive, as she frequently went to the band room during her lunch period to practice. 

“I was really surprised because I was only playing for three months at the time of the audition, so that was crazy for me to make third chair,” Lammens said. 

Looking into the future, Lammens does seek a career in music, either in theater orchestra or music production. 

Another student, sophomore Gavyn Leopold, was in orchestra class his freshman year but could not join this year due to scheduling conflicts; that did not stop him from playing the cello. Without having extra class time, Leopold spent most of his free time at school working for the audition, including his lunch period.  

“The only time I ever did take lessons was for [the audition],” Leopold said. “I took lessons for three or four weeks before the audition.” 

Leopold does not spend much time outside of District Honors Orchestra with his cello. Although he is very passionate about music, he does not see music as a career but rather as a back-up plan. 

“If there’s a church thing going on, I might spend an hour and thirty minutes with the big group, but other than that, [I do] not [play] a whole lot,” Leopold said. 

In all, there were 12 students from the string orchestra program attend District Honors. The Sequoyah String Orchestra’s next performance will be on March 5 at Large Group Performance Evaluation (LGPE). Its next concert will be in conjunction with the concert band on Friday, May 3 at 7 pm.