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Worthington Middle School fifth-grader Jordan Melendez plays the trumpet Tuesday while accompanied by WMS instructor Jeanette Jenson. Ryan McGaughey/Daily Globe

Fifth-graders shine at WMS music festival

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WORTHINGTON ­— The halls of Worthington Middle School (WMS) were alive with the sound of music Tuesday afternoon, as more than 100 student musicians performed in a solo/ensemble festival for band and orchestra students.

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Forty-two fifth-grade string students and 60 fifth-grade band beginners demonstrated, for adjudicators and in many cases family members, the special musical selections they’ve polished and prepared over the past two months.

“This is a good opportunity for band and orchestra students to challenge themselves to work up a piece and play it in front of others,” said Jeanette Jenson, the WMS fifth-grade band and general music instructor who organized the festival along with Aimon Dwan, orchestra teacher for District 518 fourth- and fifth-graders.

Added Dwan, “By choosing their own performance pieces and working independently, as well as with a teacher, to prepare, the students gain more ownership of their musical development.”

That certainly appeared to be the case yesterday, as dozens of earnest 10- and 11-year-olds clutching flutes, trumpets, violins and other assorted instruments scurried between a warm-up room and their performance sites, alone or with ensemble partners.

“I played a violin duet with Sir Sola, and now I’m getting ready to play a solo [‘Allegretto’ by Suzuki],” detailed a smiling Mild Du. “She [adjudicator Beth Habicht] said it was good but that we should try doing it faster — and that we should keep playing.”

Habicht, a retired District 518 orchestra instructor, and Galen Benton, a retired band director, served as the adjudicators for the festival. Their comments to the aspiring students were both informative and encouraging.

“I love that song!” said Habicht to the violin/viola duo of Terry Van Note and Andrew Lopez Campos after they played an elementary arrangement of Jacque Offenbach’s “Can Can” for her.

“Did you know it was from an opera?” she queried. “It’s hard to believe such a fun song could be from an opera — but it is.

“You guys do so many things so well,” Habicht continued. “You know the notes—anybody can tell that — but in this section where you play different rhythms, you have to be independent thinkers.”

At her son’s request, Van Note’s mother Krista listened attentively from the hallway, although spectators were welcome in the performance spaces.

“I’ve heard it a lot already,” she admitted.

Sophie Wietzema was one of many multi-taskers, having performed a cello duet with classmate Madison Johnson and a trumpet solo of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

“I like it,” grinned Wietzema about the jazzy piece.

Jenson and Dwan said participating students began learning their numbers when school resumed in January, and that this year’s schedule allowed for the band/orchestra festival to take place.

“We are so glad to have Galen and Beth here to share their comments with the kids,” said Jenson. “They have both worked in the district, know some of the students and give such positive encouraging feedback.”

Benton beamed at a clarinet quintet of eager girls. The group wore black pants and white T-shirts decorated with their song title on the front.

“The Irish would be very, very proud of you,” Benton told the girls after hearing their melodic interpretation of “Irish Folk Dance.”

“Do any of you know any Irish folk dances?” he asked.

“No,” they replied, giggling.

“Well, you play well together, so you must be really listening to each other, and you’re very, very good counters and have excellent clarinet tone,” Benton said before handing each participant a ribbon and shaking their hands.

That’s just the kind of positive reinforcement Jenson and Dwan were hoping the students would receive from their efforts.

“It’s been a joy to see the progress students have made since they began working on their festival music,” said Dwan. “I hope they will be proud of their hard work, and that this will help them realize how far practice and dedication can get them in music and in life.”

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