All-State Orchestra’s young musician

Grace Gum is one of the only freshman violaists to play in this competitive performance 

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All-State Orchestra’s young musician

SKILLFUL STRUMMING: Grace Gum plays her viola in the orchestra winter performance. The orchestra performed pieces from Borodin’s Second Symphony and Finlandia by Sibelius.

SKILLFUL STRUMMING: Grace Gum plays her viola in the orchestra winter performance. The orchestra performed pieces from Borodin’s Second Symphony and Finlandia by Sibelius.

Photo by: Preston Rolls

SKILLFUL STRUMMING: Grace Gum plays her viola in the orchestra winter performance. The orchestra performed pieces from Borodin’s Second Symphony and Finlandia by Sibelius.

Photo by: Preston Rolls

Photo by: Preston Rolls

SKILLFUL STRUMMING: Grace Gum plays her viola in the orchestra winter performance. The orchestra performed pieces from Borodin’s Second Symphony and Finlandia by Sibelius.

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Freshman Grace Gum will be one of the only freshmen to participate in the All-State orchestra competition on February 13-16. All-State is a competitive orchestra performance where students from schools all over Texas compete against one another.

“I think that the fact that I got in as a freshman, even if I didn’t make the best chair, shows that I have a lot of potential to be better when I’m an upperclassman and get a way better chair,” Gum said.

Gum plays viola in the All-State orchestra competition.

“All-State is similar to All-Region, but on a much bigger scale, so everyone in the state of your instrument records eight excerpts that they assign you,” Gum said. “You have one shot to record them all and the judges evaluate them over two days and then you get all of your rankings. For violas they took the top 42 [students]; it’s like a competition you have to try out for every year.”

To play for the blind audition for All-State, the orchestra students had to practice songs and perform pieces that were assigned to them.

“Getting into All-State alone is an amazing accomplishment, as the competition features extremely difficult etudes,” senior Kody Cardamone said. “Solo pieces [are] designed to be difficult to play, along with excerpts from orchestral pieces which are shorter but require a high level of precision.”

Orchestra teacher David Chisum provides support and suggestions for the students participating in All-State.

“​Students have the opportunity to play for me, individually or in front of their peers,” Chisum said. “I provide feedback on what they’re doing well and where they need to improve.”

These pieces can be difficult to master for the students, according to Cardamone.

“The material the musicians then have to play is extremely difficult and then judged extremely rigorously, so much so that one mistake can take someone from in All State to out of All-State,” Cardamone said.

After the students performed their song excerpts, they were assigned certain chairs, which is a system used to rank the musicians.

“I’m tenth chair in the lowest of the three orchestras for string players, but you have the potential to move up,” Gum said. “I think I’ll probably move up at least a few chairs.”

Photo by: Preston Rolls
CONDUCTING THE CHORUS: Orchestra teacher David Chisum conducts the orchestra during their performance in the theatre. Families of the students came out to support them.

According to Cardamone, it’s uncommon for freshman to be able to master these kind of technical and high level difficulty pieces.

“Mastering this material to have very few mistakes and being an All-State musician is already difficult, [so] for a freshman player to do that, it’s an entirely different accomplishment,” Cardamone said. “Being able to come from middle school and then master music to an All-State level is very rare.”

Because of this, most of the students who compete in All-State aren’t freshmen.

“I checked the TMEA All State results just now for viola,” Cardamone said. “Out of the 42 All State viola players, only six were freshmen- that’s less than 15 percent.”

Gum said she put a lot of time and effort into becoming a skilled viola player, even giving up band to focus all of her energy on the viola so she could get into All-State.

“I actually used to play a lot of things in middle school,” Gum said. ”Then I quit everything just for viola because I wanted to get in All-State.”

Gum wanted to be a part of All-State because everyone she knew that was involved had a positive experience.

“Everyone that I know who got into All-State told me it’s the best thing ever; they met lifelong friends,” Gum said. “I really wanted that to be on my resume since a lot of freshmen don’t make it.”     

All-State can present various opportunities to the students that compete in it.

“I think what really sets apart All-State from any performance is that it can open up a lot of opportunities for you and it’s something that you can put on your resume and get scholarships from colleges,” Gum said. “Like the Austin Youth Orchestra symphony invited me to join them without an audition.”

She has a lot of skill, according to Cardamone, especially considering that she is a freshman.

“Grace Gum is a great viola player and it is unique to see a freshman be able to enter high school with the amount of technique that she has,” Cardamone said.

Gum plans on continuing her orchestral career throughout high school.

“I just really love [orchestra],” Gum said. “I made so many friends in it and I just love music and playing music and I see myself doing it till the end of high school and maybe even beyond.”

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