PORT ANGELES — Freshman violinist Adam Weller, 14, recently represented Port Angeles High School in the Washington Music Educators Association’s All-State Orchestra after a competitive blind audition process.
Weller, the only PAHS student selected for the all-state orchestra this year, traveled to Portland, Ore., over Presidents Day weekend to perform alongside the state’s top young string musicians at the National Association for Music Education Northwest Division Conference.
“It’s a fun experience being around some of the best players in Washington,” Weller said. “You learn a lot from the conductors there because they come from all over the U.S.”
Weller, who has been playing violin since he was 4, plays in the Port Angeles High School’s audition-required chamber orchestra and has in the past played in the junior all-state orchestra.
The all-state orchestra played several pieces and rehearsal was in some ways similar to what a professional musician could expect.
Weller received the sheet music ahead of time but only had two days of rehearsals with the orchestra before the performance.
“It was hard and you don’t get a lot of rest, but it’s fun,” he said. “It’s hard while you’re playing in the moment, but you feel like you accomplish a lot.”
James Ray, orchestra director at Port Angeles High School and Weller’s private violin instructor, said that Weller playing in the all-state orchestra as a freshman is a big accomplishment.
The audition process was at the start of the school year, which Ray said has potential to be more difficult for freshmen as they were transitioning into high school.
Weller was required to record himself playing to be sent in for a blind audition.
“As a freshman, to get through all of that and make it in is kind of a big deal,” Ray said. “It’s pretty cool.”
Ray said Weller’s experience earlier on was focused on solo performance and that during the past few years he has had the chance to learn how to play in an ensemble.
“There’s a whole lot of skills you have to develop differently,” Ray said. “You have to listen differently, you have to blend with others rather than standing out on your own … and you sometimes have to subject your own musical ideas and impulses to what the group is going to do.”
Ray said the all-state orchestra is a great learning experience for students, partially because the process is somewhat similar to how professional symphonies work.
Unlike at school, Weller was expected to learn the music before any rehearsal.
“It has a lot of hallmarks of what you would do in a professional orchestra setting,” Ray said. “It is a very quick turn around. In this case it is very intensive. They are put in the pressure cooker, so to speak.”
Ray said he is proud of Weller’s progress both as a solo musician and in the orchestra.
“He is a really great representative of the fantastic things happening musically not just in the string program, but in the music program, generally speaking,” he said. “Our kids are doing really incredible things and he’s a great example of that.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.