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Grove Orchestra Performance Brings Down the House at IMEC

February 10, 2016

On Friday, January 29, the Grove Junior High School eighth grade strings orchestra made music history. For the first time ever, students from CCSD59 put on a performance at the Illinois Music Education Conference (IMEC) in Peoria. Two CCSD59 music teachers, Heather Winters from Grove and Jessica Zolmierski from Friendship, also presented at the conference.

IMEC is an annual conference that brings together hundreds of music educators and students from across the state. The three day conference provided a large variety of instructional sessions and clinics for music educators to attend and featured performances by students from kindergarten through high school.

It all began in March of 2015, when Grove’s orchestra teacher, Carolyn Berger, submitted a vigorous three part application to qualify the orchestra to perform. This included an audition tape of the students’ performance, letters of recommendation, and an application. Grove was selected to perform by a review panel, and Berger was notified in May that Grove would perform at the January 2016 conference. She made the announcement at the spring concert, and the students were quite surprised and very excited by the news.

“I really felt that this group was very capable of it, because they were learning and improving so fast,” said Berger. “We do have some superstars in this group, but they really also inspire everyone to perform better, and that makes the whole group extremely focused. They’re a great group of good kids, and I consider myself lucky to teach them.”

The orchestra had the basics of each piece mastered by December, so they were able to spend the last two months fine tuning the performance. The group did a preview performance at Grove for parents and families who couldn’t attend the IMEC on January 27, and they performed their five pieces to thunderous applause.

Of the many things Berger is proud of, one thing that stands out is how authentic the experience is for the students, who wanted to perform real music. The students played Symphony No. 1 in D Major, 2nd Movement, by Gustav Mahler and Themes from “Romeo and Juliet” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, in addition to others. Berger selected the five performance pieces so they could be played true to the original without being oversimplified, so all the music chosen was challenging.

Kim Shaffer, Assistant Principal of Grove, attended the event, along with Board Member Barbara Somogyi and District Fine Arts Coordinator Emily Woemmel. “I was completely blown away by their talent and had no idea just what a big deal performing at IMEC was,” Shaffer said. “They were so good, they received a standing ovation.”

Berger said she received many comments that the students performed at a high school level. “I hope this event will get the kids the recognition they deserve,” she said, “Most of these kids started playing in 5th grade with no former training or private lessons, and that makes their accomplishments all the more amazing. It is my hope that these students will continue playing in high school.”

To get a view of the experience first hand, check out these real time tweets from the event.


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