KU orchestra reaches state

There are many firsts a high school student might be scared to face for the very first time.

That was the case for mostly all the members of the Klamath Union High School orchestra when they competed in the East Cascades Orchestra Festival at Mountain View High School in Bend.

The East Cascades competition was the districts’ qualifier for the OSAA State Orchestra Championships and the only opportunity to qualify for the state competition.

This past Friday, as students readied themselves for the district meet, shined their instruments and memorized their sheet music, that fear went away as the Klamath Union orchestra took first place to help them qualify for the state tournament for the first time since 2011.

“I am not sure they had a sense of what they were going into before this competition. We participated last year but there was no final and it was more of a semifinal. It was all online and we submitted a recording we did in our classroom,” longtime KU orchestra instructor, Brent Hakanson, said. “Last year, there was no event like there is going to be this year. We did not get to experience what we will now, having that benefit of hearing other groups.”

The group performed four pieces.

Concerto Grosso, Op. 6, No. 1 by G.F Handel

Sentimental Saraband by Benjamin Britten

Intermezzo by Alexander von Kreisler

Darkened Shadows by Joshua Reznicow

In all, Hakanson has six seniors in his orchestra. Most of his group is made up of underclassman who never knew what it was like to perform on the big stage.

“It was such a good experience,” KU freshman trumpet player Ulises Ortega said. “Definitely an event and day that I will cherish in my memories.”

The advanced orchestra’s four pieces were evaluated and judged based on tone quality, precision, musicality, as well as a category named other, which had judges critique the choice of literature of the group, as well as stage presence. The group of students were in dismay as they discovered the results of their performance.

Hakanson read the results of the competition to his students on their trip home.

As they discovered their first-place finish, chants of “we are going to state,” echoed through the school bus.

The KU orchestra received superior ratings, even beating nine Class 6A schools.

“During the early stage of the pandemic, students were deprived of ensemble experiences where they could develop group skills. It is truly remarkable how quickly our students have come back strong,” Hakanson said. “Placing first at this event exceeded my expectations. I am very proud of our students for their musicianship and for representing KU so well.”