Orchestra splits

Yesh Nikam and Andie Goldmacher

“I mean if you can’t fit on stage you can’t fit on stage,” Orchestra conductor Nathan Hetherington said. Hetherington is referring to spatial problems in the Recital Hall—the Orchestra’s rehearsal space—that has required him to split the Orchestra into underclassmen and upperclassmen rehearsal groups.

Aside from the lack of space, Hetherington said that the large size of the ensemble made it harder for him to form close relationships with the students. “The group was getting so big that people were getting lost and I didn’t feel that I could connect with everybody,” he said.

Splitting the Orchestra has enabled Hetherington to personalize classes, he said. “I like being able to tailor rehearsals more specifically, because the way one half of the group rehearses is very different from the way the other part of the group rehearses,” he said.

Alejandro Espejel (9) did not know that the classes practiced together last year, but he feels that the current system helps him improve as a player. “I think I play better with the classes separate because I can actually hear myself and fix my mistakes,” he said.

Aidan Resnick (10) said that Hetherington’s goal to personalize the group was successful. He now gets more attention with Hetherington since there are fewer students in the each rehearsal, he said.

However, some students prefer performing in the full Orchestra. Stella Cha (10) enjoyed practicing with all of the grades together because it allowed her to create lasting friendships with upperclassmen that had more experience in high school, she said.

Hetherington agrees that the new system hinders underclassmen and upperclassmens’ ability to bond. “I loved the idea of having all four grades together so that everybody knows each other. The underclassmen really get to know the seniors and look up to them and learn from them,” he said.

The split changed the dynamic within the Orchestra because underclassmen are harder to control without upperclassmen in the room, Cha said. “When we were a joint Orchestra, it was expected that the freshmen would show much more respect towards upperclassmen,” she said.

Elijah Shaham (10) agrees that the split has decreased interaction between grades. “The ensemble is definitely not as close knit as it was last year. The juniors and seniors in the Orchestra only really interact with the freshmen and sophomores in the days leading up to concerts,” he said.

Resnick, however, feels that the divide in classes allowed him to form close relationships with the students in his class. “While I became less connected with the upperclassmen, I was able to form closer relationships with ninth graders in my class,” he said.

Maintaining the communication and closeness of all of the classes that make up the ensemble has been an ongoing challenge, Hetherington said.

In order to maintain the closeness of the group, Orchestra co-presidents Adrian Rogers (12), Emily Yu (12), and Mieu Imai (12) have been trying to bond the two groups together as frequently as possible, Rogers said. “As an Orchestra president, me and the other co-presidents have been trying to bring the two groups together with events and Orchestra merch.”

However, the change threatens to affect performance quality, since each class learns pieces differently, and there is only one dress rehearsal for both orchestras to combine before their performance, Cha said.

Rogers prefers combined classes because it has become increasingly difficult to function as a cohesive group for concerts, he said. “We’ve all developed separately, each group has its own personality and style, and that growth is really good for us as individual players but when it comes time to put things together as one unit it’s certainly challenging.”

Despite the varying opinion amongst the students, Hetherington feels that in general, the split has been a success, he said.

Despite the change in practice, the Orchestra has been putting out some of their best performances yet, Rogers said.

Hetherington does not plan on reverting back to a joint practice in the foreseeable future due to the cramped conditions in the Recital Hall. Regardless of opinions about the change, students are confident that the Orchestra will perform just as well as they did before the change, Cha said.

“The students in the Orchestra are very talented and are able to quickly adapt to whatever challenges we face in combining the two groups together,” Cha said.