A-A students perform in honors orchestra

Friday, May 14, 2021
Elizabeth Gustafson and Simon Carlson performed with the NWI Honors Orchestra May 1st at Northwestern College.

Simon Carlson and Elizabeth Gustafson had the privilege of performing with the NWI Honors Orchestra on May 1st at Northwestern College in Orange City.

Megan Benz, Band Director at Alta-Aurelia High School, said NWI Honors Orchestra is made up of the top string musicians in Northwest Iowa, and from there the ensemble is filled out with the top wind and percussion players to make it a full symphony. “There are only 2 oboe players and 4 percussionists chosen for this honor so to be one of the players chosen is a huge accomplishment. Simon and Elizabeth got to play with the other select, top high school musicians of our area of the state,” she said.

Carlson, a junior, plays oboe and piano, with piano being his primary instrument. “I played the 2nd oboe part and enjoyed playing in an orchestra even more than I do in a concert band,” he said.

“Auditions for Honor Band and Honors Orchestra are held in the fall,” Carlson said. “Students are given short pieces to learn, called etudes, which are then played in an audition. They also prepare scales and a short solo for this audition. I was selected for Honor Band and Honors Orchestra, but Honor Band was cancelled. For orchestra, we met at the college at about noon, practiced until about 5, then had a concert at 7.”

Carlson lives near Cherokee and has plenty of aspirations after high school. “I plan on continuing to grow my woodworking business, Carlson Custom Creations, and my online LEGO store, CMS Bricks, aside from helping on the family farm, after high school,” he said.

Benz said the wind and percussionists for NWI Honors Orchestra are chosen following the results of the NWIBA High School Honor Band auditions. “Both Simon and Elizabeth placed near the top of their sections for honor band so they were invited to participate in Honors Orchestra,” she said, adding that these students are unique and have characteristics that set them apart. “Both Simon and Elizabeth are very passionate about music. They both have an incredible understanding of what it takes to be the very best and thrive in situations where they can be around others who have the same mindset towards music as them.”

Benz was there to watch. “The performance was held in the chapel at Northwestern and I had a chance to listen to the orchestra rehearse all day before the performance. They played 3 pieces: English Folk Song Suite, Russian Sailor’s Dance, and The Quest. Both Simon and Elizabeth said that Russian Sailor’s Dance was definitely their favorite of the three.”

This was a rare experience for them. “Honors Orchestra was a very unique experience for both Simon and Elizabeth as they’ve only ever played with a band before. While playing with a band is really fun, playing with an orchestra is definitely a rewarding experience in an entirely different way. The style differences and the importance of the woodwind parts makes playing with a symphony really fulfilling,” she said.