M-A Bands and Orchestra Win Big at Music Festival in Anaheim

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On Thursday, April 17th, M-A’s Jazz Bands, Concert Band, and Orchestra traveled down to Anaheim to compete in WorldStrides’ Heritage Music Festival. The event featured over a dozen ensembles from all over the country, from Alaska to Mississippi, all competing to wow a panel of expert judges. The result was M-A dominance, with the Bears taking home nearly every award they could win. 

Jazz Ensemble and Orchestra both won gold and first place, meaning that professional judges considered them in the top ten percent of high school ensembles based on nationally consistent criteria and that M-A placed above all other ensembles in their category. Jazz II—M-A’s junior jazz band—and Concert Band both won silver awards, recognizing bands in the top ten percent. Concert Band won second place, and Jazz II won third place, beating even many schools’ senior bands. 

In addition to these group awards, M-A won the Instrumental Sweepstakes Award, given to the school that demonstrated excellence across the three instrumental ensemble categories: jazz, concert, and orchestral. 

Jazz Ensemble performing at the Heritage Music Festival in Anaheim.

Additionally, Jazz Ensemble and Orchestra both won Adjudicator awards, which are rarely given out at festivals. These awards are given to ensembles that the judges considered especially exceptional. 

Junior Sophia Jobst reflected, “A great part of our success was working on our balance as a group. Especially since we have so many saxophone players, it’s tough to be cohesive, but we worked a lot on that specifically. The work that we put in really showed.”

Finally, out of the thousands of musicians who competed in the festival, the judges selected twelve to receive Maestro Awards, demonstrating individual excellence. Two M-A students won this award, both from the Jazz Ensemble: juniors William Knox on the guitar and Joshua Pfistner on the trombone. Both musicians are part of the Stanford High School Jazz Ensemble and have also won individual awards at the Campana Jazz Festival earlier this year. 

Knox performed a virtuosic solo on the Latin chart “Samba del Gringo,” where he showcased his sophisticated improvisation over a fast, complex chord progression. As for Pfistner, one judge eloquently summarized his performance in a single comment: “Wow! Trombone!”

Pfistner reflected on his experience,  “Winning a Maestro Award was very surreal, but it all starts with the entirety of the band putting in all the efforts to get to where we are today. It’s awesome to get recognized for my solo achievements, but I also owe it to the rest of the band as well, as they really brought their A-game to the competition.” 

Knox elaborated, “Mr. Flaherty has done a really good job bringing out the best in each group. Winning the Maestro Award was a nice addition to an already great night for the entire music program.” 

This was the bands’ first trip with new director William Flaherty, who joined the program this year to replace Kent Kurrus, who had retired after 13 years of teaching. Flaherty said, “It was great transitioning to M-A. The students here are talented, dedicated, and it’s a pleasure to work with them.”

M-A student musicians with their awards.

He continued, “I picked the songs for Anaheim based on the excitement they would provide musically as well as how well they were suited to each particular ensemble.” Many students attributed the group’s success to the contrasting dynamics in their song choices. 

After winning countless awards, the group also found time to enjoy Anaheim’s most notable establishment: Disneyland. Junior Lia Lev said, “This trip is definitely my favorite part of the year. Spending time with all these people, going on the rides together, it’s just a lot of fun.”

M-A students splash at Huntington Beach after performances.

The trip also included a trip to Huntington Beach after the performances concluded. Junior Benji Weiss said, “This is one of the busiest times of the school year with exams coming up, so it was nice to forget that all that exists for a weekend and just spend time with friends at the beach.”
 Anaheim displayed the talent housed in M-A’s music department and fostered a memorable way to end the year. If you want to hear their music live, tune in for the program’s spring concert on May 22th.

Huraman is a junior at M-A and in her first year of journalism. She is excited to write opinion pieces and try her hand at style watch. In her spare time, she enjoys playing lacrosse, traveling, and reading.

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