Celebrating Five Years of Excellence

Musicians earn superior ratings at state assessments

For the fifth year in a row, Kettle Run’s music program has earned the distiction of being named a Virginia Blue Ribbon School by the Virginia Music Educators Association.

The VMEA Blue Ribbon Award is the highest award given to school music programs in the Commonwealth. The award recognizes excellence in band, orchestra, and choral performance. All disciplines in a school must receive a rating of “Superior” at assessment to qualify for this award Kristina Sheppard, chorus and orchestra director, believes assessment is important.

“I really value assessment for the feedback and educational importance,” Sheppard said. “It’s really important to have a goal to works towards, and the pressure is on for assessment.”

Senior Alaycia Smith, an orchestra student, also sees the value in assessment.

“Assessment is really important as a violinist in the orchestra,” Smith said. “ It’s the one time of year that we get to be judged by actual judges and put our best performances out on stage. Assessment gives us the opportunity for an experience you can’t get anywhere.”

Directors spend all year preparing students for assessment. Elizabeth Deavers, band director believes that creating habits from the beginning can improve the chance for success.

“Preparation really starts at the beginning of the school year,” Deavers said. “Working on fundamentals, making sure everyone is listening to the others around them, making sure they are all playing with the same style, and working on balance; those things are all things that we work on at the beginning of the year so that when we apply those concepts to the music, we don’t have to work as hard at the moment. We start with good habits from the beginning.”

Although they spend a lot of time preparing in class, musicians must also put in time outside of class if they want successful at assessment.

“Students are expected to practice outside of class, as well as listen to recordings of the pieces so they can hear an ideal sound,” Deavers said. “One of my favorite sayings is ‘rehearsal is when you learn everyone else’s part,’ so you have to come into rehearsal already knowing your part so you can see how your part fits in with everyone else’s part.”

“Some ways I better myself outside of class is practicing with my quartet,” Smith said. “Me and three other students from KRHS and FHS practice often and perform at venues from nursing homes to business parties to weddings. It’s a super great experience and gets me playing music and striving to play harder pieces.”

Being part of a Blue Ribbon Program comes with some bragging rights.

“Being a Blue Ribbon school means that we have amazing teachers and extremely talented students who put so much time and effort into doing what they love,” junior Ainsley Fraser said.