Oak Ridge High School Orchestra has won a top national orchestra award for the second year in a row, officials said.
The ORHS won Best 10-12th Grade Orchestra, Gold Orchestra Award, Outstanding Soloist, Best 9th Grade Orchestra, with Superior and Excellent Awards at the Festival Disney competition in Orlando, Florida, this past weekend, Director Doug Phillips said.
The ORHS Orchestra also won Best High School Orchestra one year ago, in a competition in New York City last March. The orchestra earned 11 total awards during that trip.
“It’s official: ORHS 10-12 orchestra back-to-back national champs!” ORHS Orchestra posted on Twitter after this year’s awards were announced in Orlando on Saturday, March 11.
Festival Disney is endorsed by the National Association for Music Education and also the Grammys, Phillips said.
He said the orchestra traveled to Baltimore, Maryland, and finished a close second place in the national orchestra competition in 2015.
“2016 was a breakthrough year, as the orchestra traveled to New York City and won the national competition with a 98.4 composite score,” Phillips said Sunday. “Encouraged by this achievement, the orchestra embarked on a yearlong journey in an attempt to repeat this success. This approach paid off this weekend as ORHS Orchestra won Best 10-12th grade Orchestra, Gold Orchestra Award, Outstanding Soloist, Best 9th grade Orchestra, with Superior and Excellent Awards at the competition in Orlando, Florida.”
Here is some background on the ORHS orchestra, provided by Phillips:
ORHS Orchestra—Continuing a Tradition of Excellence
Since it’s inception in the 1970s, ORHS Orchestra has only had three directors, the late Edgar Meyer, Jenifer van Tol, and the current director, Doug Phillips. During the past 47 years, the program has emerged as a national orchestra powerhouse.
Currently, the orchestra consists of 170 members, making it the largest performing arts group in Oak Ridge Schools, as well as one of the largest high school orchestras in the southeastern United States.
However, the orchestra is more than just numbers. “There is a culture of expected excellence within the community and the students themselves,” Phillips said.
During the last three years, with Phillips as director, the orchestra has placed 31 students in All-State Tennessee Orchestra, a staggering number when you consider most schools average one to two students per year, Phillips said.
In addition, Phillips has taken the orchestra to the East Tennessee Band and Orchestra Concert Festival each year of his tenure. This is the first time since the 1980s that the orchestra has participated in the event. Phillips cited this as an important reason for the recent success of the program. “By preparing for this festival, the students practice difficult repertoire as well as daily sight-reading,” Phillips said. The results collaborate this, Phillips said. During the past two years, ORHS Orchestra has received the highest ratings possible in this festival. Phillips has used this festival as a warm-up to their national orchestra competitions over the past three years.
Phillips said he has embraced the tradition of ORHS Orchestra set by his predecessors, yet has molded the orchestra into a more modern model of orchestra. Phillips conducted a research project in conjunction with Boston University during 2015-2017 that resulted in a new orchestra class that teaches fiddle, bluegrass, and pop/rock called Fusion Music. This orchestra was featured on the legendary Blue plate Special program last month.
In addition, a chamber music class has been added to the regular orchestra classes for advanced musicians in the program. Phillips said he has maintained a relationship with the Oak Ridge Symphony Orchestra, University of Tennessee, and the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, frequently collaborating in concerts with nationally known artists such as violinists Mark O’Connor and Rachel Barton Pine.
Finally, Phillips said he has embraced the use of technology in orchestra, something that is rarely found in orchestra programs. Phillips funded the purchase and installation of a synchronized advanced projection system that allows him to use computer software to play music that students can visually understand. This allows students to have a better understanding of how the music is constructed and what their specific role is.
Phillips said he has big plans for the orchestra, starting with adding $100,000 worth of new instruments to the program. So far, he has raised $15,000 of this amount, including a recent $10,000 grant from the Oak Ridge Education Foundation. This has funded the purchase of 11 cellos, one bass, five violas, and six violins.
For information on ORHS Orchestra, contact Doug Phillips as [email protected].
More information will be added as it becomes available.
Do you appreciate this story or our work in general? If so, please consider a monthly subscription to Oak Ridge Today. See our Subscribe page here. Thank you for reading Oak Ridge Today.
Copyright 2016 Oak Ridge Today. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.