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Wayland Student Press

The student news site of Wayland High School

Wayland Student Press

The student news site of Wayland High School

Wayland Student Press

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WHS musicians take the stage at Eastern Districts

Credit: Kally Proctor
Earlier this month, WHS students auditioned for the highly selective Eastern Senior Districts ensembles. These ensembles allow high school students to improve their own musical ability and to play with other accomplished musicians as well. “I really like watching the district rehearsals,” WHS band director Joe Oneschuk said. “You get to see the whole creative process happen. The [auditions include] strangers coming together who have never played with each other before, [and it] goes from a kind of rough first take to a really beautiful finished product.”

Earlier this month, Wayland High School students auditioned for the highly competitive Massachusetts Music Educators Association (MMEA) Eastern Senior Districts Festival, of which 29 students were accepted. This festival seeks to highlight some of the strongest musicians in the Eastern district of MA and is meant to provide students with an opportunity to show off their musical talents.

“I tend to audition because if you are lucky enough to get in, you can play with a group of really high level musicians,” cello player and jazz drummer senior Ciaran Murphy said. “You don’t always get a chance to do that in your day-to-day life, so that’s always a lot of fun.”

The festival includes four ensembles, bringing together high school musicians from all across the region to play in an orchestra, concert band, choir or jazz ensemble. The audition process for these ensembles is fairly rigorous and musicians are expected to prepare several skills.

“To audition for senior districts, you have to prepare all the major scales and the chromatic scale as well,” WHS band director Joe Oneschuk said. “You also have to prepare a solo, which is usually a pretty high level of difficulty. There’s sight reading for the audition as well.”

For some students, the preparation required for the audition is intense. Some students start practicing for Senior Districts the summer before the audition begins, which is as soon as the music for the upcoming year is released.

“I tend to go really early on preparing for districts,” Murphy said. “I [received] both of the pieces at the end of June when the list first came out and I did the bulk of the work on it over the summer. I spent the beginning of the school year just polishing it and then auditioned in the beginning of November.”

The auditions are conducted blindly, with students being separated from the judges by a screen. Though the audition process can be tough, several students and directors agree that there are benefits to trying out.

“Whether the student gets in or not, what they have to prepare makes them a better musician because they’re learning great repertoire,” Oneschuk said. “They’re learning scales, which makes them much more proficient on their instrument. And then if they do get in, they get to play with the best players in the district and attend a festival. It’s very worthwhile.”

Students receive their admission results the same evening of the in-person auditions. These results include feedback on each aspect of the student’s audition, from scales to sight reading, and allow students to review specific aspects of their performance that they may need to work on. This can also allow students to improve and prepare better for Senior Districts year-to-year.

“I think it was less stressful this year because I had done the audition last year and the year before, so I knew what it was like,” vocalist junior Arya Samaratunga said. “I think it is organized really well.”

For students who are accepted into one of the Senior Districts ensembles, the work has only just begun. After students are admitted into one of the ensembles, they need to begin preparing for the next part of the process: the senior festival. This involves learning new music which the students will ultimately perform for an audience at the festival.

“At this point, we’re just waiting for the music to come out,” Murphy said. “They haven’t gotten us the [online versions] yet, but once I get it, I’ll print it and I’ll practice it. But it’s usually not terribly hard.”

Beyond the opportunity to play with other highly skilled high school musicians, some students appreciate Seniors Districts for the opportunity and experience it provides.

“It’s really fun to sing with everyone and meet new people,” Samaratunga said. “The environment is really fun and lively. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Although the process may seem overwhelming or exhausting to some, students who have auditioned for and participated in the Senior Festival in the past recommend it to any students who are on the fence about trying out.

“Just go for it,” Samaratunga said. “It’s okay if you don’t get in the first time you audition, you can just try again. You have four years to do it, so just do it [and] don’t think too hard about it. I think it’s important to put yourself out there and try new things even if you’re nervous.”

For high school musicians, Senior Districts can certainly be a great opportunity to play with other like-minded students, improve performance skills or simply be part of an impressive ensemble.

“Definitely try, because you have nothing to lose,” Oneschuk said. “You literally only have things to gain. There’s really no negatives. Even if you don’t get in, just that experience of auditioning and learning that music is worth it. Challenging yourself and seeing how far you can get, that’s worthwhile.”

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About the Contributor
Kally Proctor, Co-Features Editor
Kally Proctor, Class of 2024, is a third year reporter and co-features editor for WSPN. She is captain of the high school’s mock trial team and tennis team in the spring. Outside of school, she enjoys spending time with friends, visiting new places and finding new books to read. Contact: [email protected]
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