Po-Hi 2015-2016 Orchestra enjoys outstanding year

Ponca City Now - May 19, 2016 2:17 pm

The Ponca City High School Orchestra has enjoyed a remarkable year led by an outstanding senior class of 26 string musicians.

It all began with the second annual joint concert with the Stillwater High School Orchestra on Sept. 17 in its new Performing Arts Center. Each school performed two selections alone and then joined together to perform two selections. This represents the first time the high school has done this type of activity.

In November, the 72-member Symphony Strings (top string orchestra at Po-Hi) headed off to Edmond Santa Fe High School for the first Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (OSSAA) Contest of the year. The group earned all superior ratings at this State String Orchestra Contest. They performed Rhythmic Variations on Two Ancient Hymns by Howard Hanson and V anishing Point by Richard Meyer. This contest has been in place 14 years. The orchestra has competed in 13 of these contests and earned 12 consecutive superior ratings.

The orchestra was fortunate to have two members selected to the All-State Orchestra this year. Junior string bass musician Macy Willett earned a spot for the first time. Landen Keffer, senior string bassist, received a three-year medallion for having earned a spot in this elite orchestra every year of high school eligibility.

A student must be a sophomore to audition for the group. They performed in the All-State Orchestra concert at the Oklahoma Music Educators Association Convention in January.

On Feb. 17, the 104-member Symphony Orchestra was in competition at the OSSAA State Orchestra Contest at Edmond Santa Fe. In concert-performance, the group earned all superior ratings, performing On a Hymnsong of Philip Bliss by David Holsinger and Russian Sailors’ Dance by Reinhold Gliere, as arranged by Merle J. Issac.

In the past 41 years at this OSSAA competition, the Po-Hi Orchestra has earned 36 superior ratings in concert, including nine consecutive years.

The strings then headed into the sight-reading room for the second part of the contest. They earned all superior ratings in this area of competition, as well. In the same 41 years, the Po-Hi Orchestra has earned 34 superior ratings in this part of contest, including four consecutive.

After large group contests were completed, solo and ensemble contests began. Ten ensembles and six solos qualified at OSSAA District Solo and Ensemble Contest for the State Contest held on the Oklahoma State University campus.

Two of these solos and five ensembles earned a superior rating at State to bring the medal count for both contests to a total of 106.

Jenna Wynes and Macy Willett were the two solos earning top marks at State. Two of the ensembles were 18-member chamber groups.

For 15 consecutive years, at least one chamber group has earned a superior rating at OSSAA State Solo and Ensemble Contest. In 50 opportunities, these chamber groups have earned 48 superior ratings (some years more than one chamber group was entered).

With the results from the November and February large-group contests and State Solo and Ensemble Contest, the orchestra earned the 2016 OSSAA Sweepstakes Accent Award. This is the top award given by OSSAA to outstanding organizations. The Po-Hi Orchestra has earned 27 of these distinguished OSSAA Sweepstakes Awards in the past 41 years, including seven in the past eight years.

Another award returned to the Symphony Orchestra, after a four-year break. They earned the OSSAA Academic Achievement Award Plaque for having a cumulative grade point average over 3.50. This is the 23rd year to achieve this, out of the 27-year history of the award. The group made a complete sweep of OSSAA awards this school year.

The Symphony Strings also performed with The Texas Tenors for the second straight year, in The Starlite Theatre in Branson, Mo. The Po-Hi Orchestra is the first and only student group to ever perform with the professional entertainment in the history of Branson.

The group performed a 25-minute concert to open the show for The Texas Tenors and then opened the second half of the concert with a selection. The Texas Tenors then joined the orchestra to perform Wild Horses and What Am I Gonna to Dream About?

They would like to expand the show more with the Po-Hi Orchestra, if we return next year. The Tenors have also indicated an interest in coming here to perform with us in the future. Every place the orchestra went in Branson brought wonderful comments about their maturity, courtesy, kindness and overall demeanor, not to mention how well they performed.

For three consecutive years, the orchestra has earned all superior ratings from all judges at large group OSSAA contests.

Senior string orchestra members include: Giant Boykin, Rachael Carter, Ashley Geary, Mariah Gonzales, Jakarrah Grace, Ryan Hazlett, Zaranae Jackson, Laney Jones, Landen Keffer, Haley Kirchenbauer, Hannah Kirchenbauer, Jason Layton, Cassidy Lee, Christi Lee, Alexis Mancha, Paxton Myers, Danielle Patterson, Taryn Pruett, Abby Rhodes, Jayda Robledo, Nicole Rugeley, Maggie Shuart, Stephanie Sims, Morgan Sisney, Jacob Stinson, and Tyler Vogele.

Senior members of the wind section of the symphony are: Emily Batschelett, Eve Cawley, Katelynn Schulz, and Hope Willis.

There are many award-winning students and musicians in this group of 30 students.

Orchestra directors at the high school this year are Paula Cochran and Katie Rolf, who assist Dan Larson. There were two student teachers from Oklahoma State University this year—Justyn Stine (fall) and Corrine Bean (spring).

The orchestra has been invited to perform at the Oklahoma State School Board Association Convention on Saturday, Aug. 27, in Oklahoma City, around 3 p.m. This organization normally has around 2,000 members attending the convention.

“ This year has been one of the most notable and memorable years during my time with the Ponca City High School orchestra program,” said director Dan Larson. “It ranks up there with the 2003-2004 orchestra that performed at the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago. This year has one of the largest senior string classes I have had at Po-Hi and definitely one I am extremely proud of. They are terrific musicians, but more than that, they are wonderful people.

“ I have been a part of their life progress since the seventh grade and they have become like a second family,” he said. “After six super years, I feel a great loss with their graduation. I expect to hear great things about them in the future. However, there are other wonderful musicians and people left to carry on the tradition at Po-Hi and I look forward to seeing what they accomplish in the future.

“ I want to thank the entire Ponca City community for the tremendous support you have shown toward our instrumental music program over the 31 years I have been here. A big thank you must go out to my beautiful wife Phyllis, who has given me superb help along this rewarding journey. It has been a memorable career.”


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