Orchestra selected for state honor | Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose Schools
April 26, 2024

Orchestra selected for state honor

BHS Repertory ensemble performs at Orchestra Hall

Thanks to meticulous preparation that enabled an outstanding performance at regions, the Buffalo High School Repertory Orchestra gained a statewide audience and critical acclaim earlier this month.

The ninth-grade ensemble under the direction of Kristine Wiese took the stage for the State Festival Honors Concert at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis on April 15. Only eight ensembles from around Minnesota were chosen for the showcase based on their performances at regional competitions, and the 2,085-seat auditorium was filled to capacity for each school’s performance.

“It felt surreal, almost, just being in that big of a space that was that important,” said Cora Smiglewski, a viola player.

Other ensembles chosen for the Orchestra Hall showcase hailed from Moorhead, Duluth, Owatonna, Stillwater, Mounds View and Minnetonka.

“Before we got on stage, hearing the other groups made me a little self-conscious, like ‘Oh, they’re pretty good. I wonder what we’re going to sound like to the audience?’ said violin player Ty DuBois. “But it also felt really inspiring. Just seeing all the orchestras play was like, ‘We can do that too.’ It was really motivating.”

“I hope it helped my students realize that working hard really does pay off, and in this case our individual and collective efforts got us to a place where nobody dreamed we could go,” said Wiese.

Earning their way
Buffalo earned its invitation by securing “superior with distinction” ratings from both judges at the MNSOTA Regional Orchestra Festival in Minnetonka on March 4. While making it to the state festival wasn’t exactly the goal heading into regions, Wiese said her students played to their full potential.

“I wasn’t really putting my eye on Orchestra Hall,” said Wiese, now in her third year at BHS. “I had been there before with my former school district, but I have never taken this group outside of the school to perform on a stage, and that can really go in any direction depending on how well they’re hearing and seeing, or if they’re nervous. They performed so well that day.”

As indicated by the results, the judges wholeheartedly agreed. 

“I don’t think most people expected to make it through,” said viola player Averi Hausladen. “We didn’t think we would make it at all.”

Professional input
One of the benefits of the state festival was that musicians had the opportunity to rehearse on the Orchestra Hall stage and break into sectionals led by members of the Minnesota Orchestra in the afternoon prior to the evening showcase. 

“Each one of the sections – violins, viola, cello and bass – all had 30 minutes of time with a Minnesota Orchestra person who specializes in that instrument to help them and encourage them through their music, and they all just loved it. They had rave reviews,” said Wiese.

“I definitely learned more, like how to round out the sound and make it more smooth,” said Hausladen. “I wish we had more time.”

The afternoon rehearsal time was also important to acclimate students to Orchestra Hall’s unfamiliar acoustical design.

“The acoustics were crazy,” said Smiglewski. “It felt like we were more isolated. The sound in the (BHS Performing Arts Center) just goes up, and in Orchestra Hall it bounces out more because of the panels.”

DuBois agreed. 

“If we perform here in the PAC, we can hear more of the others,” he said. “But when we were there I mainly only heard myself and my section.”

That meant students had to rely on the director even more than usual to stay in unison.

“I was nervous when we got on stage that people wouldn’t pay attention and watch and be at the same tempo because we couldn’t hear each other as well,” said Smiglewski. “The sound just bounced more and we couldn’t hear each other.”

The performance
Acoustical challenges aside, the students enjoyed hearing the other schools perform, and showed that they belonged with the rest when their own turn came.

“Watching all the other groups made us feel like we weren’t really ready for it, but then when we got on stage we felt ready,” said Hausladen. “I felt really good after playing.”

Wiese admitted to some nerves herself.

“Most of the people who go there have historically large orchestra programs or they’re in the metro, and it makes me nervous to compete with that,” she said. “You watch some of the other schools and go, ‘Oh my goodness.’”

But when the time came to perform their own two pieces that fit the allotted time, the Repertory Orchestra rose to the occasion.

“I can’t imagine they could have performed any better. It was amazing,” Wiese said. “As a matter of fact, I just got an email from someone who has a really good program who said, ‘How old is that program? The kids sounded wonderful.’ So that felt good.”

The BHS orchestra program has come a long way since beginning with seven trailblazing ninth-grade girls in 1999-2000. Now in its 25th year, the program boasts no fewer than six ensembles, and the Orchestra Hall appearance is a memory that won’t soon fade for this year’s freshmen.

“We had to work really hard for this. The reward was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Wiese. “Seeing their faces after they got out of sectionals and coming off that stage – they realized the significance of what they were doing. It was just a really proud moment to be up there with these kids.” 

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