Port Townsend High School Orchestra competed in the Northwest Orchestra Festival in Gresham, Oregon, on March 7, along with more than 2,000 students from more than 50 schools in the western states.
After Port Townsend’s afternoon performance, the orchestra had boarded the buses for home when the young musicians found out they had been awarded one of two slots in the evening finals in their class, String Orchestra Division III. Orchestra members were up against Shorewood High School, a school approximately four times the size of Port Townsend High School (PTHS), and with three separate orchestras.
The students were shocked and delighted, and immediately decided to alter their departure time in order to take advantage of one last performance in finals. First and second place would be determined in front of a packed venue.
“It was a big surprise for me; the other orchestras were very good,” said PTHS senior Cooper Lee.
“The students stepped up, and we had an amazing performance and compliments about their program from multiple judges, other orchestra directors and even the event organizer as well,” said PTHS orchestra director Daniel Ferland.
The Redhawks were awarded second place in class. “I think this is an honor the students should be extremely proud of for years to come. It is great to see our students work so hard every day to accomplish a goal,” Ferland said.
In addition, the Port Townsend High School Chamber Ensemble received third place in the chamber ensemble division. The PTHS chamber ensemble is a small group of 11 string players who are coached weekly by Kriszti Bunica, music teacher at Grant Street Elementary.
Since the beginning of the school year, students held several fundraisers to pay for the trip and also worked hard perfecting their music over the past few months, Ferland said.
“One of the best lessons of this trip isn’t the competition aspect, but the idea that a large group of nearly 40 students can work together over a long period of time together to accomplish their goals.”