High Strung

Smaller Size of Chamber Orchestra Allowed Students to Connect With Each Other

High+Strung

Bridget Epstein and Maddy Slaughter

Walking into first hour on Monday morning, senior Emma Wiltfong tried to think of her weekend highlight, knowing she would soon be asked by orchestra teacher Adam Keda. She went right to the viola section, sat next to her stand partner and listened as the class went around and talked about the best parts of their weekends. 

She knew junior Jerald Young would talk about his Saturday night shift at Chick-Fil-A and senior Meghma Pal would go on and on about the new documentary about her idol, Taylor Swift. Wiltfong knew because she spent every day with the chamber orchestra. 

With 25 members in the chamber orchestra as opposed to the previous year’s 50-person chamber, they were able to form closer bonds. 

“In previous years, it’s been the largest group. We’ve had 40 to 50 people in that group,” Orchestra teacher Adam Keda said. “When I string it down to 25, they’re all going to be closer to the same ability level and we’re going to be able to get more done, play harder music, learn music faster.” 

Keda wanted the chamber orchestra, the highest orchestra in the program, to be smaller and more advanced. The group stayed fairly consistent from the previous year, with a few additions to complete the chamber. 

“Occasionally if we have a big group, it requires more practice because not everyone is at the same level. It’s harder to play together with bigger groups,” Young said. ”Everyone that’s in it now, does a solid job of playing their instrument so it takes less time to learn pieces.”

Even though the chamber orchestra members ran in different circles, when they walked into room 212 every morning for first hour, they knew they had a community of people they could be comfortable with. 

“In a larger class, I might not get the time to really know someone or know their names,” Pal said. “In a smaller class it’s helpful in that aspect of it, but also it impacts the people that you’re able to connect with.”

Keda began Monday mornings by going around and asking about his students’ weekends because he cared about them. And through becoming closer to each other, the orchestra’s sound improved. 

“So much of music is based on personal feelings and emotions and any time we can talk about that stuff in a safe group, it’s more beneficial for everybody,” Keda said. “The smaller group allows those kind of conversations to go on.” 

Seniors that had been in orchestra together since middle school got a chance to go through the program together. Being in the chamber orchestra together was a full circle experience. 

“We’re a tight group because we’ve known each other for a couple years now we’re more comfortable,” Pal said. “Some people who I’m close to we met through orchestra in elementary school or middle school and we stuck it out together.”

For those seniors, they knew the weekend recaps and morning discussions would end, but they looked back on the times they had in room 212 with each other with thankfulness.

“It’s bittersweet because since orchestra has been like in every year of my high school career,” Wiltfong said. “Having it end makes it feel like the whole thing is over. It’s just weird.

Keda wanted to make the chamber orchestra a group of talented musicians who couldn’t only play well, but also build relationships. 

“There are some days where I’m really impressed with how well they sound, how well they’ve grown as a group,” Keda said. “They have a really nice sound that I don’t think we would get with a larger group. So I always enjoy listening to them, I like standing there and conducting them. It’s enjoyable for me because they are able to sound so good.”