Kenosha Unified holds separate festivals each year to showcase its many talented band, orchestra and choir students.
On Saturday, they were all under the same roof.
Thousands of area students delivered more than 1,200 vocal and musical acts — solos, duets, trios, quartets and group ensembles — at the all-day Wisconsin School Music Association-sanctioned District Solo & Ensemble Music Festival at Indian Trail High School and Academy.
Public- and private-school students rotated in and out of more than 20 classrooms, where they were judged by state-sanctioned adjudicators.
The top performances advanced to the WSMA State Festival on May 4 at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.
“It feels very different because we’re not all sitting in a fieldhouse together with 2,000 people,” said Scott Plank, Kenosha Unified’s coordinator of fine arts.
“But in terms of the number of people throughout the day, this is probably the biggest event we have. The parking lot has been full since 8 o’clock this morning.”
Performing in a small classroom in front of a judge can be a nerve-racking experience for many of the students.
Madison Tongco, a seventh-grader at Christian Life School, played Sonatina in Colors’ first movement “Yellow” by Kevin Olson.
The piano solo captivated the audience and adjudicator, who described the tempo as “fantastic” and the articulation as “wonderful.”
“Many people have a difficult time on this instrument,” the adjudicator said. “Most people don’t have a 9-foot, concert grand piano in their living room.
“The bass strings are really long and are going to ring out very strong.
“Your left hand has to back off a dynamic level to match the right (hand). Make sure the balance is there. Everything else was fantastic.”
A Bradford High School brass ensemble delivered a bigger, bolder piece with a pair of contrasting movements of “Water Music” by German composer George Frideric Handel.
The 22-piece ensemble was comprised of french horns, trumpets, trombones, baritones and tubas.
“I thought it went really well,” said Sam Strash, a Bradford tuba player. “There were parts we could definitely improve on, but it sounded really good.”
Many students performed individually and collectively with others throughout the day. Some were headed into their eighth hour of performances.
“A lot of the preparation, they did on their own,” Bradford band director Karl Mueller said. “They were able to take what we talk about in class and apply it and work well together with other kids, which is something that is less and less popular in our society as we’ve grown more individualistic. I’m proud of them.”
Plank said there are valuable life skills to be learned during the music festival.
“They get to come here and play in front of an adjudicator,” Plank said. “I think it’s a great experience for these kids.
“No matter who you are, at some point, you’re going to be interviewing for a job. You’re going to be doing things where you have to put yourself out in front of someone else.
“It really does a lot to help build kids’ ability to function under that stress in that kind of environment and get feedback in that area.”