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String Stars: West Orchestra sparkles in Flat Rock

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Annabelle Goldsmith plays violin Saturday. Photo by 
Pete Zamplas.

By Pete Zamplas – The West Henderson High School Student Orchestra was the grand finale in musical entertainment Saturday, in the “Celebrate Flat Rock” social at the Flat Rock Village Hall.

Eleven string musicians played on the Village Hall’s porch. The family-friendly social also featured free ice cream, face painting, and blood donations. The four high schools generally take turns playing in this event. West played at it a half-decade ago, also under direction of West Orchestra and Choir Director Tiffany King. She has been at the helm for a dozen years, since 2006-07. She has played violin for Shelby High, the Hendersonville Symphony and Brevard Philharmonic. Her husband Matthew King, a Hendersonville Bearcat alum, has played viola for local symphonies and the Asheville-based Cafe String Quartet.

Allen Klaes is West’s band director, leading the Flying Falcon Band at halftime of home football games.

Many in West’s 40-member orchestra are non-seniors, who will return in the fall and then play in two main public shows. The Falcons will play in the N.C. Music Educators’ Assoc. conference in early November, in Winston-Salem.

The other has an all-county orchestra from all four local public high schools playing together before Halloween, to raise money for the Berrian Fund for intra-county strings education.

“We have a great strings program” in Henderson County, King said. As for her Falcons, they earned all superior ratings at a recent festival.

“They do an incredible job of playing together,” in synch and with personal harmony, King said. A close-knit, relaxed group is how the students also describe West’s orchestra. They tend to be more comical than serious, on the side, King said. “They’re outgoing, and very lively.”

“Fun and upbeat” is how senior violinist Emma Holmes describes the Falcons’ ambience. She will study psychology at Western Carolina U. Holmes said “we get along so well.”

Students said pressures are inherent, not harshly in their faces. As a result they can relax, focus and do better. “Constructive criticism” is better given, received and acted on, said senior cellist Brynn Welch. She will study arts and science at Furman.

Caroline Meadows, a junior, said there is much self-motivation to improve and guidance from King. She cited a recent example when the first time playing a tune’s sequence it was not done smoothly. But she said the next time in that tune, the determined Falcons played it “perfectly.”

The students note the productive atmosphere starts from the top. King often rotates which “chair” the violinists play in. This de-emphasize a pecking order, and it gives more people challenges of leads and solos.

King describes her teaching style as low-key. “I have a pretty relaxed style. I let the students know expectations, and when those expectations are not met. But through it all, the main goal is to have fun.”

She estimated one in 20 of her orchestra students pursue a musical career, and thus for the others it is an enjoyable activity as part of the high school experience.

This is all the more reason to spice up the program with a pop tune, for each show. The last tune Saturday was from the Disney 2012 animated fantasy film “Brave.” Several from the orchestra interviewed after their concert said their favorite to play over recent months was from the comical adventure movie series “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

The venue in Flat Rock posed a challenge, with the porch open toward the audience but with a low roof over it. As a result, the five violinists on the stage right side at times could not hear notes played by the cellists and violists at stage left.

To counter that, King directed more vigorously and visibly than usual.

Another time, there was a brief lapse. The musicians noted that half of the violinists stopped playing. Sophomore Zoe Jackson said she played one (G), elongated note. That helped provide a backing transition, until more rejoined momentarily later.

Jackson’s highlight in ‘17-18 was getting to play a duet. “I felt super nervous, and played timidly at first,” she recalled. But after a few, notes she “got into it. It felt great, to hear yourself above the others” for a change.

The seniors graduate tomorrow (Friday) night. Their younger cohorts in 2017-18 will carry on the Falcon orchestra’s tradition of spirit and excellence.

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