Solo & Ensemble: Behind the Scenes

A student’s performance is a very small part of their Solo & Ensemble journey. Although you see a four minute performance, you don’t see the countless hours of practice. You don’t see the time they spent coming in before and after school to practice with Kelli Martin, their accompanist. You don’t see them attending private lessons and practicing their solo to the point where they could probably play it from memory.

Some band and choir members start practicing their musical piece as early as a year before the event. “I usually spend at least an hour practicing every day,” said freshman Nels Lebakken when asked about how much he practices during the week of Solo & Ensemble.

Students start by choosing their musical piece from a long list of songs ranging from Class A to Class C. Class A pieces are more technically advanced, and in order to make it to the state competition, this is the grade level piece a student must play.

From solos to duets and small ensembles to large ensembles, these talented musicians courageously play in front their peers, families, and a judge. This judge then gives them a score from a 1-5. Those who receive a *1 on a Class A solo qualify for State Solo & Ensemble that took place at Viterbo on Saturday, May 4th. “The process for Solo & Ensemble is the best part. Learning new, and in most cases, more challenging music, along with not having as many people on your part means you are responsible for your part coming through and being heard,” said band director and district Solo & Ensemble coordinator, Dave Kies. “The accountability factor is ramped up a bit. We see students musically grow exponentially in this process.”

On Saturday, May 4th, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., these talented musicians put their skills and practice to the test by performing in one or more events. From jazz improvisation to Bach and everything in between, Solo & Ensemble has it all. Solo & Ensemble isn’t something many high school musicians at West Salem take lightly. Students put months of hard work, preparation, and practice into this event.

This year, around 80 students in 64 events advanced to the State level Solo & Ensemble at Viterbo.