Visitors to the Wadsworth Atheneum’s Festival of Trees and Traditions on a recent morning were treated not only to brightly decorated trees and sparkling lights, but also to the sweet sound of holiday classics performed by middle school musicians from West Hartford.
First String, a selective chamber orchestra from Sedgwick Middle School in West Hartford, has been performing at the Wadsworth Atheneum’s annual Festival of Trees and Traditions since 1980. The 30-member ensemble meets before and after school and involves the most dedicated sixth- through eighth-grade musicians from the orchestra program.
Below, Andrew Hopko, the orchestra director at Sedgwick Middle School, describes why performing at the Festival of Trees and Traditions is an important opportunity his students cherish.
This performance is quite different from our other concerts throughout the year in that we prepare and perform many more pieces than we would at a school performance. Performing at “Festival of Trees and Traditions” gives the students an opportunity to present a complete program of high quality music. We have included fun songs such as Let it Snow and a rock version of Carol of the Bells along with more serious pieces such as Vivaldi’s “Winter” and “For Unto Us” from Handel’s Messiah.
We always have a great audience made up of friends, family, and folks from the community. It’s a wonderful opportunity to bring the great work that goes on in Sedgwick’s rehearsal rooms out into the community. Several of the students in the group performed for a second or third time as they have been in the group for a few years. Participating in music ensembles gives kids a sense of ownership of their work and pride in their school. Between the countless hours of rehearsing and many performances throughout the year, the students really enjoy their time together, and the great work they put on stage clearly shows they have a love and passion for music.
It is my hope that the strong music program at Sedgwick and unique experiences the orchestra students have had while here will give them a lifelong love and appreciation for music.