Pops Concert Preview: Academy Symphony and Honors Sinfonia adapt to new schedule in midst of final practices


Thomas Toghramadjian

The Academy Symphony and Honors Sinfonia practices a Star Wars medley during Thursday tutorial. “All the pieces sound good [now]. It’s going to go well,” sophomore Will Donaldson said

While the new schedule has been widely acknowledged for the academic opportunities it produces, the changed periods have created issues for the orchestra as it prepares for the Pops concert.

“We are struggling with the schedule this week as we try to put things together right before the concert… there was hardly any rehearsal time last week because of Thanksgiving and while we used to have five 45-minute rehearsals with everyone before the concert, we now have only 2 35-minute tutorials to get everyone ready. This is not enough time to pull together as a group and we are scrambling to find solutions,” orchestra instructor Almut Engelhardt said.

Sophomore Will Donaldson, leader of the orchestra’s brass section, also acknowledged the challenges that have arisen this year.

“We haven’t had our pieces down as securely as last year. It might be a product of… less time or because we’re attempting harder pieces,” he said The orchestra’s rehearsal schedule has intensified in the week before Pops, as the orchestra undergoes its final preparations.

“Instead of using only 35 minutes for each block, we’ve been practicing for the full 75 minutes. We also came at 8 [a.m.] on Wednesday for extra practice,” Donaldson said.

Despite the difficulties, Engelhardt is pleased with her students’ efforts.

“We lost a very large number of outstanding seniors last year, most of whom were leaders of their sections, and I am so impressed by how everyone has stepped up and filled that void, making the transition this fall seamless and successful… I am particularly happy with our freshmen, who have exceeded my expectations on every level and who stand out as a group of young and excellent players,” she said.

Donaldson observed that the orchestra’s dedication is starting to pay off.

“All the pieces sound good [now]. It’s going to go well,” he said.

Watch the Upper School Orchestra rehearse the “Star Wars” theme here