Choir, orchestra and band students take the virtual stage


Sandy Nguyen

Sandy Nguyen (11) poses for her All-West festival audition tape. She is pictured with the clarinet and has played for six years.

Since 1939, All West has brought students from schools throughout the West Tennessee region together to study and create music. Sandy Nguyen (11), Mandy Cassius (11), and Gino Giorgianni (12) are auditioning to participate in this year’s band, orchestra, and choral festivals, respectively.  Although the in-person convention was canceled due to Covid-19, these three students are still participating in the audition process virtually. 

“Rather than the normal audition conditions where we would play in front of the judges, we are recording [our] pieces and scales, which is less nerve-wracking without the pressure of judges in the same room,” Nguyen said.

Throughout the first semester, students in the choir, orchestra and band practiced their prepared pieces for the competition. Scales, sight-reading and the assigned excerpts filled the curriculum for these three classes. Teachers also aided in the preparations and guided the musicians through the rehearsal season. 

“Our whole class was involved in the preparation, but only some of them are taking the audition,” Cassius said. 

Cassius, Giorgianni and Nguyen have continued to participate in the festival despite the virtual nature of the event. Without in-person rehearsals, the students took it upon themselves to learn scales and recordings. 

“[To prepare] I listened to the tracks a lot and studied the music,” Giorgianni said, “I also did some practice sight-reading and warming up.”

Without the added practice after class, students made up for the preparations on their own time. Online lessons created time for All-West students to work on scales and practice tracks.

“I feel like my preparation was more self-guided than in past years because we weren’t in person,” Cassius said. “I’m the only 11th-grade cello [player]  in my class taking the audition, but I feel like, no matter the outcome, it’s still a good audition experience to continue playing especially during the pandemic.”

 While auditions can be daunting, in theory, this anxiety would disperse since the audition takes place online. However, the digital submission forces participants to make meticulous critiques of their own performances, which in turn stiffens the competition and creates the predicament of choosing from their recordings. 

“Since I can record limitless amounts of recordings, it’s hard for me to pick one of them,” Nguyen said. “It also feels like more pressure since everyone can correct their mistakes.”

 All West is an opportunity to bring musicians of all kinds together. For students and directors, the program allows them to bond, express their love of music and leaves them with a memorable experience. 

“It’s an experience that is rewarding,” Giorgianni said. “Getting to sing with other skilled individuals and having distinguished directors lead you is incredibly meaningful.”