District 15/211 Orchestra Festival kicks off 2021 music season


Photo courtesy of Marla Caballero

Sourojit Mazumder, News Editor

For most high school orchestra musicians, playing in several concerts during the school year often proves to be the highlight of the orchestra season. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, most orchestra players, including many of the newer high school and junior high students, have missed out on playing in several concerts over the past eighteen months. The District 15/211 Orchestra Festival, the first music-related event of the season, will mark a return to in-person music events after a long wait for students, staff and parents.

The District 15/211 Orchestra Festival will kick off a November that is packed with music-related events, including the Junior High Choir Festival, the Fall Orchestra Concert, and the D15/211 Band Festival. The Orchestra Festival is a program run by Fremd High School Orchestra Director Marla Caballero and Palatine High School Orchestra Director Dung Pham as it involves both District 211 schools and all four District 15 junior high schools. The festival had been held every year since 1982, but was canceled for the first time last year. This year, however, the event will be back in-person on Monday, Nov. 1st. Nearly three hundred students from District 15 (8th grade students) and District 211 (all grade levels) typically participate in the program.

Students have been practicing for the concert at their respective schools and homes shortly after the school year began. To further prepare for the concert, the junior high students will rehearse along with their peers and the high school orchestra students on the day of the concert. 

Fremd High School Orchestra Director Marla Caballero, an organizer of the Orchestra Festival, shared some of the hopes she has about the event.

“The festival gives the junior high kids a snapshot of what high school orchestra is really like,” Caballero said. “At the junior high level, there’s only one 8th grade orchestra, regardless of level. At Fremd and Palatine, we place students into different groups based on ability level and interest, so there is a home for all of our students. That’s not something that a lot of junior high students might be aware of, so this festival gives them a little bit of exposure to our different orchestra groups”.

In addition, Caballero discussed how the social aspect of the Festival also allows the high school students to be able to form some relationships with the younger students, through impromptu mentoring and discussions about certain musical pieces.

“One of the things that I love about our festival is that we seat the high school students with an 8th grader,” Caballero said. “In fact, I asked some of my older students what they remembered from their experience during junior high and a lot of them said that they remembered their older partners helping them out during rehearsal and feeling a general sense of excitement to be part of our musical community”.

Caballero ended by saying that she was glad that the festival is back after being cancelled last year, since so many junior high students missed out on the opportunity to play in their first big music event during the orchestra season.

“Usually, the eighth graders are inspired in the end, since they get to hear the high school orchestras,” Caballero said. “And so, I hope that it gives them some excitement and motivation for their orchestra plans in the future”.