After more than a year of canceled shows and virtual performances, the hallways of Laramie High School are echoing with the sounds of live music once again.
During a normal year, the school’s musicians participate in the Southeast District Festival every April — an opportunity to travel to Cheyenne and perform in front of experienced judges as soloists and in ensembles.
“The music festival is always a really special time for the bands, choirs and orchestras,” said band director Chris Olson.
In January, instead of taking the chance that yet another performance opportunity would be canceled because of the pandemic, faculty in the music department decided they’d stage their own festival this spring.
“We decided to do it here this year just so we knew the kids would get the experience, and if we needed to go virtual we could do that,” Olson said.
They invited guest clinicians to work with musicians and evaluate their performances over a period of several weeks. Students in the band performed on Monday and Tuesday, while orchestra and choir students performed earlier in the month. Students received a rating from three judges as well as feedback and comments.
Judges chose top band performers to play their pieces during a band concert Tuesday evening.
“Since we’re doing it a little differently, we wanted to make it as educationally sound as we could for the kids,” Olson said.
Olson said the opportunity to perform in front of a live audience was a tremendous learning experience for musicians.
“The most learning and most growth happen for solos and ensembles,” she said.
Performing as a soloist or in a small ensemble also allows students to express their musicality apart from a larger group and choose pieces suited to their personality and ability.
“We talk about giving audiences the gift of a musical experience,” she said. “It gives them the chance to develop that on their own.”
LHS sophomore Codi Dooley, playing the trumpet as part of a horn duo, said she was excited for the energetic performance atmosphere and the chance to play different musical styles in different groups.
“It just feels good,” she said.
Senior Aidan Giraldo, who plays clarinet, said he’s had to adapt his practice schedule amid shifting academic schedules this spring, but he welcomed the festival.
“I like playing in front of people and having a semi-normal festival this year,” he said.
Olson said on Monday morning that students were nervous and excited about the festival, but it felt good to see them return to the stage.
“This is the first live event they’ve had since last January,” she said.