11/16/18 ABSS All-County Orchestra gets a boost from professional musicians

Once more, with feeling

Aaron Craven directs middle schoolers in the ABSS All-County Orchestra prior to the concert Thursday.

Jessica Williams / Times-News

Aaron Craven directs middle schoolers in the ABSS All-County Orchestra prior to the concert Thursday.

ABSS All-County Orchestra gets a boost from professional musicians
By Jessica Williams, The Times-News 11/16/18     
Reprinted with permission.  

Jim Waddelow works with high school students in the ABSS All-County Orchestra as they prepare for the annual concert Thursday.  

Jim Waddelow works with high school students in the ABSS All-County Orchestra as they prepare for the annual concert Thursday.

 

Once a year, Alamance-Burlington orchestra students join together to rehearse with professionals and put on a grand show.

That show is the annual performance of the ABSS All-County Orchestra, which comprises 120 students from Turrentine, Broadview, Hawfields, Cummings, Williams and Eastern, all of whom spent Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 14 and 15, rehearsing with guest clinicians Aaron Craven and Jim Waddelow.

Craven has directed the orchestra at Forsyth Country Day School in Lewisville for the last 13 years, helping FCDS have one of the largest independent school string programs in the Southeast.

Waddelow has been the director of Instrumental Activities for Meredith College in Raleigh since 2007. He is also the music director for the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra.

Williams High School Orchestra Director Veronica Allen was thrilled to work with both.

“I think the most exciting part about this event, at least from my perspective, is bringing in different people each year and seeing how the clinicians interact differently with students, how they pick different music,” Allen said. “And so even though we do this annually, it always feels like a different event because of the different people involved, and it just brings some energy to the program that’s really exciting.”

Craven was certainly energetic as he conducted the middle school group on the Williams stage, hoping his own excitement would help maintain theirs during the lengthy rehearsal.

“What’s really nice in this particular event is that that these kids are pretty prepared,” Craven said. “Their teachers did a really good job of getting them ready to go. They know the music, they have an idea, and so it’s just really my job to get them excited about that and then to show them what it’s like to put on a professional performance.”

In a room downstairs, Waddelow joked with the high schoolers about how happy the bassists looked compared to others who “look like their dog just died.” That got them to crack a smile.

Though he’s used to directing at the college and professional level, Waddelow was able to switch gears easily.

“I slow things down a little bit more,” he said. “There’s also more instruction at this level. At a college or professional orchestra, I say, ‘May we please do this,’ but here I’ll have to show them. That’s really the only difference: there’s more of a pedagogy and demonstration side of it at this level because I don’t have to do that as much at the college level and I don’t do it at all at the professional level.”

He commended the students on their hard work, saying it’s not typical for orchestras to rehearse for eight hours straight — with some breaks — and then be expected to perform.

“At the end of the night tonight, they’re all going to sleep great because it’s not necessarily the physical demands, though that’s part of it, it’s between the ears. This is a really high level of concentration that they’re expected to do,” he said.

It paid off Thursday night at 7 p.m. as the orchestra took the stage.