Northwood Philharmonic Orchestra cellists prepare to perform “Overture to Marriage of Figaro” under the guidance of director Ben Case. (Aya Takase-Songui)
Northwood Philharmonic Orchestra cellists prepare to perform “Overture to Marriage of Figaro” under the guidance of director Ben Case.

Aya Takase-Songui

Northwood Performers take the stage at the annual Northwood Area Concert

January 23, 2023

The buzz of excited parents, hum of instruments being tuned and glistening clothes of the performers filled the Northwood theater on Jan. 5 as students prepared to perform at the annual Northwood Area Concert.

Santiago Hills and Northwood Elementary’s Advanced String Orchestras, Sierra Vista Middle School’s Chamber Orchestra and Northwood High School’s Philharmonic Orchestra performed to celebrate young musicians in the local community and to encourage their continued participation in music.

“We put together this concept eight or 10 years ago with the idea of giving the kids the opportunity to see what’s next,” Sierra Vista instrumental director Henry Miller said. “We are so grateful to have the high school students here, but this is really about the younger children and motivating them to keep going.”

The Northwood Area Concert took a pause during the pandemic to protect student safety. Now, with all activities being resumed, students are performing together again, with the intent of giving younger musicians a taste of upper levels of music and expanding their horizons by allowing interactions with older players. 

The IUSD music program hopes concerts like these will increase participation in the arts despite skill or time constraints through encouraging students to stick with their passions and providing opportunities at all levels of education to be involved with music.

“I will forever be grateful for IUSD’s amazing music program,” sophomore Yufei Chen, who plays cello in the Northwood’s Philharmonic Orchestra, said. “Without it, I never would’ve started playing the cell. Getting involved with music is one of the best decisions I could have made.”

Uniting performers through their passion for and similar experiences in music, the Area Concert induced curiosity and excitement in all levels of students, prompting them to further their excellence in their instrument. Through creating memorable experiences and sparking a love for music, the IUSD music program has created hundreds of passionate and successful students and performers.

“I had never forgotten the experience, as a young child, of seeing the middle school and high school kids’ perform thinking, ‘Someday, that could be me,’” Santiago Hills and Northwood Elementary instrumental music director Dianna Gray said. “If children never go to Carnegie Hall, but they play their instrument and keep it a part of their lives, music will be a joy that you will always want to keep.”

Santiago Hills and Northwood Elementary performed “Royal Promenade”


Aya Takase-Songui

Santiago Hills and Northwood Elementary Instrumental Director Diana Gray guides violinists through a section of carefully executed pizzicato in “Royal Promenade”.

The concert began with the elementary school orchestras, who performed “Royal Promenade” by Don Brubaker, conducted by Dianna Gray. The young performers displayed a level of professionalism in their performance, balancing multi-part music and even excelled in executing different textures such as pizzicato. 

“You learn a lot from music that you don’t from other disciplines,” Gray said. “I really think the kids are getting the experiences that we hoped they would get from tonight.”

Sierra Vista’s orchestra played “Incantations”


Aya Takase-Songui

Henry Miller, Sierra Vista Middle School’s Instrumental Director of 19 years, directs the Chamber Orchestra through “Incantations.”

This was followed by Sierra Vista’s rendition of “Incantations” by Richard Meyer, conducted by Henry Miller. The masterful use of dynamics in the beginning of the piece created the perfect mood of mystery before building to an energized and fulfilling climax.

“We have so many children who want to play music at Sierra Vista Middle School,” Miller said. “We have a place for every student regardless of their ability of commitment level.”

Northwood Philharmonic Orchestra performed “Overture to Marriage of Figaro”


Aya Takase-Songui

Northwood Philharmonic Orchestra cellists prepare to perform “Overture to Marriage of Figaro” under the guidance of director Ben Case.

Northwood’s Philharmonic Orchestra was accompanied by Wind Symphony, Northwood’s top band, in a full orchestra performance of “Overture to Marriage of Figaro” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. This piece was conducted by Northwood instrumental music director Ben Case. The accompaniment of the wind instruments brought out the exceptional performance by the orchestra, creating a unified sound while also showcasing different  sections.

“There is a certain level of repertoire available for full orchestras,” Case said. “The wind players today are members of wind symphony, the top of four bands we have, and occasionally combine with the strings and get to play professional level music.”

All groups joined together to perform “A Festival Rondo”


Aya Takase-Songui

Elementary school violinists passionately execute their melody during “A Festival Rondo” amongst other performers from the Northwood area.

As the finale of the concert, all groups took the stage to perform “A Festival Rondo” by Meyer, conducted by Henry Miller. With multiple melodies to showcase each level of performers, the piece flowed beautifully while giving each orchestra their own spotlight.

“We are only able to do what we do at the high school level because of such incredible teaching that’s going on at all levels,” Ben Case said. “It’s just so so thrilling to be able to do this kind of performance.”

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