Moments Captured During KMEA All State Orchestra 2022

Woodford’s finest orchestral musicians brave the snow and ice to put on a memorable performance at The Kentucky Music Educators Exhibition!


Greg Marsee

The KMEA Symphony Orchestra performed at KCA under the baton of Kevin Noe. Programmed were works by Berlioz and Copland. Woodford musicians included violinist Anamei Walli (12), violists Maia Smith (12) and Elizabeth Komprs (12), and cellist Joseph Carey (11).

The Kentucky All State Orchestra Conference took place in Louisville this past weekend. Six Woodford County students were invited to play with the KMEA Commonwealth and Symphony Orchestras, rehearsing and performing alongside high school musicians from all parts of Kentucky. Having been two years since the last in-person convention, it was doubly exciting to be back on Whitney Hall stage.

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  • Woodford County High School represented well at this year’s KMEA All State. All students were members of Woodford’s advanced Chamber ensemble, under the direction of Greg Marsee. From left to right: Anamei Walli (12), Elizabeth Komprs (12), Azlynn Day (10), Joseph Carey (11), Willa Michel (12), and Maia Smith (12).

  • Conditions were particularly chilly at this year’s conference, with an ice storm cutting through the city right as students and directors began to arrive. Thankfully, rehearsals and performances were mostly unaffected, with only a few commuting students having to stay the night at the Galt House. However, the weather did provide for some impressive views!

  • As soon as students arrive at the convention center, they are required to go through seating auditions. These provide rankings for each section of the ensemble and determine section leaders. Audition excerpts are taken from the performance program, which is released months in advance. It is recommended that students familiarize themselves all of their parts prior to audition day, as excerpts are only revealed the day of. As such, waiting in the practice hall can be nerve-wracking. Some students find creative ways to offset the stress, such as the UNO game I definitely won.

  • KMEA is always held at the Louisville Galt House, a hotel overlooking the YUM! Center and the Ohio River. Room fare is provided by a student’s respective school, for a total of three nights. As the sole male participant from Woodford County, I had this room peacefully to myself. The trashcan underneath the desk was repurposed into a makeshift mini-fridge, using the ice machine found on our floor.

  • All State traditionally opens with a concert at Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts by the Louisville Youth Orchestra and members of the Louisville Symphony. This year’s performance was notable in its programming of Saint-Saens’ Cello Concerto No.1, with visiting artist Anita Graef as soloist. Under the batons of Nicholas Finch and Doug Elmore, the ensemble also performed works by Glinka, Smetana, and Sibelius as part of the Gheens Great Expectations Concert Series.

  • It’s a tale as old as time: a composer will write a work, conduct or perform its premier, and be met with “hissing [of] admirable energy and unanimity.” Such was the case for Hector Berlioz’s opera Benvenuto Cellini, which entered the repertory in disgrace in 1838. Confidant in its worth, Berlioz would go on to re-purpose the material for a standalone concert piece: his wild and rapturous Roman Carnival Overture. Set predominantly in a brisk triple meter, a merry saltarello makes for most of the piece. A yearning tune in the English Horn, taken from Cellini’s first act love aria, opens the beginning slow section. The melody is then repeated in the violas, and later in canon with the full strings.

  • KMEA ensembles rehearse three times a day, with meal breaks in between each. They’re great opportunities to explore the city, recharge with good food, and socialize with others. Elizabeth Komprs, Azlynn Day, Alex Nguyen of North Oldham, and myself ate at the Galt House buffet Thursday morning after a morning run-through. The sandwiches were fairly decent!

  • In the days leading up to the event, there was some concern that the ice storm would inhibit parents driving to see concerts. Due to the weather, only about a third of clinics and exhibits hosted by the conference were available. While conditions made going out for meals difficult, much of the ice had luckily melted by performance day.

  • All State musicians also have the opportunity of attending sectional rehearsals hosted by faculty members from Kentucky universities. This year participating cellists worked with Dr. Paul York, of the University of Louisville. Not only was he able to give insight on several difficult passages, he also gave out copies of his recent Lutoslawski recording! Written for Mstislav Rostropovitch, the concerto is known for its fiendishly technical nature and motivic use of quarter tones.

  • The young upstart Aaron Copland, fresh off his studies at the Fontainebleau Conservatory in Paris, arrived in America in 1924. As a student of renowned composer-maker and conductor Nadia Boulanger, Copland had been encouraged to find his own voice. The result was a thoroughly unique style marked by Jazz rhythms, light textures, and American folk melodies; a combination irresistible in its charm and poised to win over a nation. Perhaps no clearer do these elements appear than in his beloved Billy the Kid ballet music. Composed in 1938 for the Ballet Caravan company, the suite is a postcard from the rolling plains and raucous towns of the old frontier. This Fantasie Americana tells the story of infamous outlaw Henry McCarty, better known as “Billy the Kid,” and his exploits in 19th-century New Mexico.

  • It’s become a tradition for Woodford attendees to have dinner at Louisville’s Old Spaghetti Factory the night before the performance. This year was no different, though we were rather pressed for time. Due to a kitchen ticket error, dinner would not come for around two hours after we arrived. Fortunately, we were able to return to the Galt for a final rehearsal with time to spare.

  • On Saturday, students are expected to check out of the Galt House and make their way to the Kentucky Performing Arts Center. After a brief soundcheck, musicians congregate in the dressing rooms or venture out for lunch during break. Performances start later in the afternoon, all taking place at KCA’s Whitney Hall.

  • The KMEA Commonwealth String Orchestra performed at KCA under the baton of Mark Dupre. They performed works by Coleridge-Taylor, Wiren, Grainger, and Rautavaara. Woodford musicians included violinist Willa Michel (12), and cellist Azlynn Day (10).

  • The KMEA Symphony Orchestra performed at KCA under the baton of Kevin Noe. Programmed were works by Berlioz and Copland. Woodford musicians included violinist Anamei Walli (12), violists Maia Smith (12) and Elizabeth Komprs (12), and cellist Joseph Carey (11).

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