Music Competitions: Practice makes pitch perfect

Nails trimmed, hands warm, strings tuned, violin player Sarah Vuong stands outside the room nervously, waiting to be called in by the judge to perform her piece. Vuong has done this several times before, yet can’t help feeling anxious all over again.

“It’s not really exciting as it is nerve-wracking because the judges are really serious, but it’s fun when I walk around with friends [around the campus] ” Vuong said.

The music department is composed of band, orchestra, choir and handbells. The department participates in two important music competitions every year: UIL, which includes a concert and sight reading contest, and solo and ensemble contest. Ensemble is when the whole band, orchestra, or choir performs in large or small groups such as duets and quartets. Solo is when an individual performs a piece in front of the judges. University Interscholastic League hosts these competitions usually in the beginning of the school year.

Because of the time crunch, students need more practice time than is available in a school day. Preparation usually means staying after school once to three times a week, with either the director or with an accompanist. For example, choir students are required to stay after school at least once a week to practice for their upcoming UIL and Solo and Ensemble competitions. More often, the students have to individually dedicate their time to practice their pieces on their own.

“For solo, we practice with an accompanist and by ourselves [afterschool and at home]. For ensemble, we practice as a class or group,” junior Brittany Trinh said.

Although these students commit to practicing, in between practices they also relax.

“Before competitions, we practice, then eat and sit around,” Sarah Vuong said.

Behind the grand masterpiece of a musical performance lie multiple practices and rehearsals. They practice with a goal of going to district, state, or even getting sweepstakes to earn recognition as well as trophies.

“In the end, if we do well, our school gets more known and it’s better for the program because the students are becoming more advanced,” Brittany Trinh said.