Hitting the note: 28 WHS students selected for Senior Districts


Credit: Rachel Chau

On Jan. 7, 2023 28 WHS student preformed at the Massachusetts Music Educators Association Eastern District Senior Festival. The picture above shows the 2018 Massachusetts Eastern Senior District Orchestra.

Penelope Biddle

Student musicians from around the Eastern District gathered to showcase their talents on Jan. 7, 2023, at the Massachusetts Music Educators Association (MMEA) Eastern District Senior Festival. 28 select Wayland High School student participated in the festival, which was held at the Boston Latin School, after auditioning months prior.

High school musicians from the over two dozen towns and cities in the Eastern District made up the festival. To be chosen, all students went through an audition process on Nov. 19, 2022, at Milton High School.

“For these [auditions], there’s a very specific list of criteria that [the students’] have to prepare,” Fine Arts Director Susan Memoli said. “It’s solo repertoire, scales and sight reading. Those three tenets are what they are judged on, so they prepare ahead of time.”

While some aspects of the auditions can be practiced beforehand, like the solo or scales, students can’t prepare for everything. There’s the dreaded sight reading and, of course, the possibility of rejection, both of which can cause some students to feel anxious.

“The audition process was nerve-wracking,” junior alto singer Clara Sin said. “It was so relieving when I finished auditioning, and I could relax, chat with my friends and hope I got in.”

The difference from last year’s tryouts was an added stressor to the audition process this year. Due to COVID-19, the MMEA held auditions for the 2022 festival online. However, the pandemic later caused the event itself to be canceled. For sophomore tenor singer Kanmani Sekhar, who auditioned for senior districts for the first time online last winter, the differences between this year’s auditions and last year’s auditions were stark.

“Being online means you get to do multiple runs, then you can submit it, whereas, performing in person, you just get that one time,” Sekhar said. “[In person] was far more stressful because you’re led into a room where there’s just one person sitting behind this huge divider. You just start singing, and if you mess up, you can’t redo it.”

This year, the festival selected both Sin and Sekhar, along with 26 other students from various WHS musical ensembles, but they had to wait a few days after auditions to receive the good news. First, MMEA had to complete the scoring process.

“All the scoring is done on a computer system,” Memoli said. “So once all the scores come back into a centralized system, then the groups are selected.”

On Friday, Jan. 6, student musicians practiced all day for the festival and had to miss school because of it. “Practicing for Senior Districts requires a lot of hard work, focus, and patience because it can get really annoying and frustrating at times, but it’s definitely worth it in the end,” Sophomore alto Clara Sin said. (Credit: Sierra Dale)

The festival organized groups to give the musicians a chance to show off their hard work and talent. In order to make sure everything went smoothly and that everyone’s individual hard work and unique sound held up in an ensemble, all the groups met on Friday, Jan. 7, to prepare. Since this rehearsal, also held at Boston Latin School, ran all day, students missed school. While some students found the days-long process of the auditions, individual practice, rehearsal and performance taxing, there was also some payoff.

“To be honest, I’m really tired, and I would not do this on a consistent basis, but I think it’s worth it,” Sekhar said.

Sin, who said the focus and patience the auditions required could be frustrating at times, agreed that it was worth it for the outcome, which means a good-sounding ensemble, and, as both Sekhar and Sin mentioned, a great addition to a college application.

For the actual festival, students arrived at WHS the morning of, then departed by bus to arrive at the Boston Latin School at 9 a.m..

“Then we start with the dress rehearsal, and then we’ll do a little bit more practicing, then try to do without the sheet music and then we have the actual performance later,” Sekhar said.

The band and orchestra performed from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., with the jazz band and chorus performing shortly after, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m..

“Usually parents and anybody else who gets tickets at the door or in advance [watches],” Sekhar said. “There’s also this option where you get to purchase recording, video, or both, of the concert.”

Memoli said that she is happy for the students who put themselves out there in different ways for this musical event.

“We had a lot of students who really attempted to make the festivals, and it’s difficult to be selected, but I hope that they take away from it their own personal pride and satisfaction having made progress,” Memoli said. “For our students who were selected, this year was exceptionally difficult to make the ensemble, so having 28 kids is really awesome.”

Memoli expanded on why she thinks even auditioning for the festival is impressive.

“I’m really proud of all the students who auditioned because preparing alone for something like this is something that can be really transformative,” Memoli said. “Undertaking that level of repertoire and that level of commitment that it takes to get yourself to that spot to be ready to audition, is really something impactful that we should celebrate.”