Placer music program wins big at festival

Concerts offer culture to community, student says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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The Placer High School music program has some celebrating to do after several wins at the Heritage Festival in Anaheim earlier this month. The school’s music program walked away with the Festival Sweepstakes award, four Maestro Awards for exemplary individual performances, first place and gold medals for both the wind ensemble and jazz band, silver medals and third place awards for concert band and concert choir and two Adjudicators Awards for wind ensemble and jazz band. The Maestro Awards were given to students Will Egli, who plays soprano saxophone, Aaron Tomashefsky, who plays piano, Roy Abella, who plays trombone, and Skyler Leftridge, who plays drum set. The Heritage Festival is a national, and sometimes international, competition for schools all over the country, and Placer High has been participating for 10 years, said David Lawrenson, director of music for Placer High School. The school participates in the AA category, but the Festival Sweepstakes was an honor that pitted Placer against eight other schools in attendance that brought both vocal and instrumental ensembles, Lawrenson said. The overall competition included 4,000 students from about 40 schools, Lawrenson said. Lawrenson, who has been the music teacher at Placer for five years, said he was proud of the result of the work his students put into the competition. “This was a better year,” Lawrenson said. “We always do well, but this was pretty different.” Placer senior Nigel Pell, 17, who has played trumpet in both the wind ensemble and jazz band for the last four years, said he is happy about the wins. “I feel good about them,” Pell said. “In the past years we have had some sort of victories, but this year I feel like we earned both. We put the work in and it showed.” Senior Lauren Strella, 17, has been participating in the music department for four years. Strella plays the French horn in the wind ensemble and alto saxophone in the jazz band. Strella said the awards are a great way to start wrapping up her music career at the school. “I think it’s great,” Strella said. “It was a really good way to capitalize on the last four years of being here and really peak on the senior year. I feel like because this is a really senior-heavy group, all of us came with the purpose this year of we want to be good.” Placer senior Connor Soejoto, 18, is president of the concert choir and said he is ecstatic about the group’s wins at the festival. “I’m very proud of how much work we have put into it, very proud of the students. I definitely have never been more pleased,” Soejoto said. The school’s music program consists of the jazz band, wind ensemble, concert band, drum line, marching band, pep band, concert choir, chamber choir and women’s choir. Sophomore Camille Royce, 15, plays clarinet in the concert band and said she thinks the music program adds a great element to the high school. “It’s just an amazing opportunity to learn about something that is not just a core subject,” Royce said. “It’s actually an art, but it takes a lot of skill. It’s almost like a sport in that it takes a lot of coordination. It’s a great opportunity to learn a different type of activity.” Lawrenson said music gives students a chance to work both hemispheres of their brains through mathematics, creativity, listening ability and socialization. “We try to make the band and choir programs a family,” Lawrenson said. Pell said the music program is connected to the community and he has talked to people who were in the band decades ago. “I would say most people in the town and the community know who we are,” he said. “There is a lot of history. Through the years many people have been through (the music program).” Strella said she thinks the music program offers a good chance for listeners to spend time with people who have common interests. “I think it offers a lot of good culture,” Strella said. “Our concerts are always free, so it’s a good way to come listen to some good music.” Reach Bridget Jones at