By Ellie K. ’24
Super Saturday–a day full of bright, incoming students checking in, buying items at the bookstore, and milling about. For some, it also included an audition for the Middle School Symphony. I remember being so nervous, palms sweating, and being so excited it was almost scary. Later, when I found out I had gotten into Symphony, I was elated. That would be the start of my musical journey at Harvard-Westlake, as I took the symphony level orchestra all three years at the middle school, and also currently take the Upper School Symphony orchestra course as a 10th grader.
The Middle School Symphony is a year-long elective course, the highest level of orchestra you can take (the other two levels are Beginning Strings or Beginning Band, and Concert Strings or Concert Band). It includes strings, winds, brass, and percussion. Ms. Reola leads the Middle School Symphony, and is also a 7th grade dean. She is energetic, methodical, organized, and trusts our skills, and I attribute all the success we have had in Symphony to her ability to bring out the best in each musician. In my 7th grade year, Symphony was a class where I formed some of my strongest bonds with my fellow 7th graders in the orchestra. That year, we went to Disneyland to play in the Worldstrides Heritage festival, which was an amazing experience–not only did we get to play great music and get helpful feedback in a mini clinic from instructors, we also got to spend almost a full day at Disneyland riding rides and hanging out with others. We ended up winning many awards. The next year, Symphony was stronger than ever and I also felt more confident in our ability as an orchestra, and my own skills as well. Ms. Reola also announced we were going to New Orleans in the spring for a festival, which I was really looking forward to. Unfortunately, our year was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we continued having Zoom meetings, and eventually we had a virtual concert, where we each recorded our parts separately and synced them online. You can watch our performances in the links below. In my 9th grade year, we were online for most of the year, which meant practicing in small sections on Zoom and more virtual concerts. On top of that, we did some masterclasses (where accomplished musicians come in, hear students play and give them feedback) and a relaxation workshop! I was constantly entertained, even on Zoom, and never once felt as if Symphony was something lost to the pandemic. When we came back to school mid-March, because we were online for so long, our playing was not as cohesive, but we made it work and had an in-person concert at the end of the year. Symphony has been a fundamental part of my Harvard-Westlake experience and I wouldn’t have done it any other way.
Link to our virtual concert:
Link to our in-person concert: