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Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

ACHS Musicians Shine in Virginia Band and Orchestra Event

ACHS+Musicians+Shine+in+Virginia+Band+and+Orchestra+Event

Ethan Gotsch

Editor

Five Alexandria City High School students participated in the All-Virginia Band & Orchestra Event on April 21-23 at Christopher Newport University (CNU). This event brings the state’s best student musicians together in one location to work with world-renowned conductors. 

Senior Kaifi Abdullah, senior Steven Bectel, junior Matthew Haymes, senior Paul Ostermann-Healey, and senior Tucker Stone were selected to participate in this event through a demanding audition process that included a prepared etude, scales, and sight-reading. The three-day event in Newport News included two-and-a-half days of rehearsals and culminated with concerts by the orchestra, concert band, and symphonic band in Ferguson Center Concert Hall. All of the concerts were free and open to the public.

“The caliber of ensemble at these events is unmatched and is far beyond what is capable at any one school. It is a great honor to play in such a group in any state,” said ACHS Director of Bands Timothy Grant. Several compositions were performed for the very first time at the event, according to Grant.

Senior Steven Bectel and junior Matthew Haymes get their instruments in preparation for their performance.

This year’s All-Virginia Band & Orchestra event was the first since 2019 due to the pandemic, and also the first time it was held at CNU. “This is significant because over 300 student musicians were able to visit a campus that was surely new to some,” said Veronica Jackson, ACHS Orchestra Director. 

Abdullah, Bectel, Haymes, and Stone participated in the band event, and Ostermann-Healey took part in the orchestra event. Although the 2021 event was virtual, this is the second year in a row that Abdullah, Bectel, and Stone were selected for all-state, “which is a very big deal,” Grant said. 

Ostermann-Healey, who has been playing the violin since he was in elementary school at Douglas MacArthur Elementary School, currently plays violin in the ACHS Chamber Orchestra. This was the first time he auditioned for the All-Virginia Orchestra competition. 

“The experience was really fun,” he said. “I liked the conductor and music a lot, and spent time hanging out with friends there who I knew from my Youth Orchestra.” Ostermann-Healey said he enjoyed exploring the CNU campus and also found the Elton John tribute band, Bennie and the Jets, which performed the evening before the concert, particularly entertaining. Ostermann-Healey plans to continue with music in college, although he doesn’t plan to pursue it as a career. 

Stone, who plays trumpet in ACHS Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band, said he spent many hours preparing for the All-Virginia Band audition. He placed in the top 20 in the state. 

Seniors Kaifi Abdullah and Tucker Stone pose for a photo on the CNU lawn.

“That’s an achievement I’m proud of considering trumpet is one of the most auditioned-for instruments,” he said. Reflecting on the experience, Stone added, “It was an awesome opportunity, and I especially enjoyed playing music surrounded by peers that had equal dedication to music, and under the direction of Andre T. Feagin, the director of the concert band.” 

Stone plans to attend Dartmouth in the fall and hopes to continue playing music there. “Balancing music with academics is a challenge I will continue to embrace,” he said.

Abdullah plays contrabass clarinet in ACHS Wind Ensemble, which he also played at the All-Virginia event. Additionally, he plays baritone saxophone in the ACHS Jazz Band and bass clarinet in the Titan Marching Band. Bectel played bass trombone in the All-Virginia event, which he also plays in the ACHS Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band. Additionally, he plays the sousaphone in the Titan Marching Band. Haymes performed on French horn at the All-Virginia event, which he also plays in the ACHS Wind Ensemble. Additionally, he plays the mellophone in the Titan Marching Band.

All photos courtesy of Timothy Grant

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ACHS Musicians Shine in Virginia Band and Orchestra Event