For the first time since its founding in 1951, the Hillsdale College Symphony Orchestra will perform for a national audience. The ensemble will play at the College Orchestra Directors Association’s national conference in Fairfax County, Virginia, on Friday, Feb. 3. The conference runs from Feb. 2 to Feb. 4.
Hillsdale’s orchestra won the chance to play at CODA after submitting audition tapes to the competition.
“This is the first time I ever submitted tapes,” James Holleman, director of orchestra, said. “I knew it was going to be a strong orchestra this year.”
Hosted by George Mason University, the performance is momentous for Hillsdale’s orchestra of 77 members — an opportunity to showcase its skill to more than 300 university orchestra conductors from around the U.S. and Europe.
“Traveling with an orchestra is probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most of us,” junior violinist Micah Heinz said. “When Professor Holleman told us he was entering the competition last year, I don’t think we thought anything would come of it. We’re a small school competing against a bunch of large schools.”
Though the featured performance is the highlight of the conference, the orchestra will also partner with University of Tulsa’s symphony orchestra for a master class led by graduate student conductors and will travel to Washington, D.C., to hear the National Symphony Orchestra.
The orchestra’s repertoire for the performance includes a variety of unique pieces chosen to help its performance stand out. “Serenade to Music” by Ralph Vaughan Williams features senior violinist Hannah Andrews, and “Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra” by Max Bruch features senior violinist Stevan Lukich.
Heinz said his favorite piece was the last movement of Benjamin Britten’s “Four Sea Interludes” from Peter Grimes.
“The interlude tries to paint a storm,” he said. “It’s really dramatic and beautiful.”
Holleman said he anticipates the performance at George Mason University will improve the reputation of Hillsdale’s music department, helping with recruiting, fundraising efforts and confidence.
“We’ve said we have a good program,” Holleman said. “Now we have an objective outside national source saying, ‘You have a strong program.’”