Country Day musicians on the road for Calabasas Music Festival


Rachel Ruggera, Staff Writer

Rehearsals began as soon as we stepped off the bus Friday afternoon, and lasted until 9:30 that night. After dropping our suitcases off at the hotel, Country Day students flooded the Viewpoint School in Calabasas, hauling out instruments and concert attire to practice with an entirely new group and conductor for the performance the very next day. Musicians from different schools around Los Angeles County gathered February 3rd and 4th for the annual CAIS (California Association of Independent Schools) Music Festival to work with experienced, professional conductors and many other high school music students. Our band, orchestra, and choir traveled the farthest with a three-hour bus ride to the festival with excitement and energy levels high.

For two months, these three groups had been preparing during class with the music for the tiring, and high-stressed 24-hours of practice with our conductors. My  orchestra conductor, Dwight Oltman, who has performed with groups around the world playing for ballets, operas, and musicals, was strict and had high expectations for all of us. With auditions, late night rehearsals, and an upcoming concert, we didn’t have the time or energy to do anything else those two days but practice, sleep, then practice again.

On the last day before heading back to San Diego, all the musicians gathered in the theater to watch our classmates perform. With no clue what these other groups had been working on, I was surprised by how good they sounded together after only having met the day before. The choir sang arrangements in multiple languages as well as one poem by Dana Gioia that had been set to music. Our band and orchestra followed them, performing a variety of contemporary and classical pieces with percussion and solos mixed in. I could tell that with our conductor’s critical and sometimes demanding guidance, we had come a long way from the first few out of tune notes to sounding like a real orchestra.

While I liked the trip and the chance to play with another orchestra, I can admit it wasn’t the most fun or exciting school event, and I only realized that I actually enjoyed it long after I came home. Still, the songs were great, and if you weren’t in Calabasas for the music festival, you can see the band, orchestra, and choir perform some of the same music at the spring concert.