West High Orchestras kick off the year with Halloween concert

West High Orchestras finally returned to the stage Oct. 13 showcasing their talent, costumes and spooky spirit alongside Northwest Junior High Orchestras.

Maya Chu and Anna Song

For the first time in three years, the spooky tune of “Monster Mash” howled through Arganbright Auditorium. West High Orchestras held its annual Halloween concert in collaboration with Northwest Junior High last Thursday at 7 p.m.

“I was thrilled about the concert. It’s the first time since 2019 that we had seventh or eighth grade join us. And that’s a really big deal for us,” said Jonathan Welch, West High’s orchestra director.

Orchestra members’ pre-concert feelings varied, ranging from nervousness to excitement.

“[I am] really excited because this is our first concert of the year and it’s really fun and I like seeing everyone dressed up,” said Sabrina Du ’25.

Others like Tessera Rippentrop ’24, were eager to play with and watch the junior high orchestras.

“I am excited to see the new generation that’s going to be coming into the West High Orchestra and I am excited to do the best I can,” Rippentrop said.

I was thrilled about the concert. It’s the first time since 2019 that we had seventh or eighth grade join us. And that’s a really big deal for us.”

— Jonathan Welch

Welch emphasized the significance of this concert in showing younger students what Symphony Strings—West’s most advanced orchestra—is all about.

“We have freshmen that had never heard Symphony Strings play before, so they didn’t, until last night, understand the full idea and vision of our program,” Welch said.

Abigail Lee ’27 was interested in hearing the high schoolers play for the first time.

“I really want to know what songs the high school is playing and how advanced they are,” Lee said.

The musicians’ return to the stage was highly anticipated, and it did not disappoint. Conducted by Kathryn Swinbank, Northwest’s 7th-grade orchestra opened the concert, followed by their 8th-grade orchestra. Next to perform was West High’s Concert/Philharmonic Orchestra and then West High’s Symphony Orchestra, both conducted by Welch.

To top off the concert, all West High orchestras came together with the 8th graders to perform “Monster Mash,” a crowd favorite of the night.

Following the concert, many students had positive comments about the performance.

“I think we played really well. I think we played better than we did in rehearsal,” Du said.

She had fun both playing for the junior high students and listening to their performances.

“I think it’s really motivating. It makes you want to play your best for them. I think they did really great last night, so I’m excited for the future of our orchestra.”

The junior high musicians also left a positive impression on Jayden Shin ’23.

“The future is bright with these young children. We bestow upon them the great honor of continuing the tradition of excellence at West High,” Shin said.

The future is bright with these young children. We bestow upon them the great honor of continuing the tradition of excellence at West High.”

— Jayden Shin '23

8th grader Lea Abou Alaiwa is looking forward to anticipating being a member of West’s orchestras.

“I’m looking forward to playing some new music and having more orchestras,” Abou Alaiwa said.

This concert is just the beginning for West High Orchestras. West High’s Symphony Orchestra has been selected as one of the four outstanding youth orchestras from the United States to perform at the 9th Capitol Orchestra festival on President’s Day Weekend. The orchestra will be traveling to Washington D.C. to play at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts on Feb. 20, 2023.

The preparation for this festival will be a thorough process that this year’s orchestra members haven’t yet experienced due to the pandemic.

“The process that we’re going to have to get to the Kennedy Center involves bringing in guest conductors and taking a program that we’ve already performed and making it even better, which we just haven’t been able to do the past few years,” Welch said.

In preparation for this performance, Symphony members, like Andrew Dong ’24, are setting goals for themselves.

“From what our conductor says, the Washington D.C. trip should be very good,” Dong says. Dong’s goal is to “make it to Washington D.C. [Welch] might pull us out if we’re not good enough.”

Despite the long road ahead, Welch is optimistic about this year’s orchestra.

“I’m just really excited with the way things are going now and knowing that we’re already performing at a high level and that this is just going to carry on through the end of the year,” Welch said.

For Symphony, this performance is a goal to work toward.

“With the Kennedy Center performance on the line … everybody seems 20% more motivated to make it sound the best that it possibly can,” Welch said.