Board members wanted to recognize the 34-member orchestra, directed by Ian Jessee, for its national middle school title. In March, the small Kanawha County middle school defeated the Hong Kong International (Middle) School Orchestra and the Hyde Park Middle School Orchestra of Las Vegas in the finals. Both schools are private, and members of the orchestra must audition in order to participate.
As part of the celebration, the West Virginia Department of Education gave the school's music program a five thousand dollar grant.
“Naming a small, public school from West Virginia as the winner of this competition shows the dedication and effort our students must have put forth in order to accomplish such a great honor,” said West Virginia Board of Education President Priscilla Haden. “This should be inspiration to all of our student artists.”
The National Orchestra Festival in Kansas City, Mo., was sponsored by the American String Teachers Association. Middle School orchestras were required to perform 20 to 40 minutes and were judged on technique, tone, intonation, rhythm and interpretation. Orchestras were selected to participate in the national festival based on their application and supporting materials, including a CD recording of previous performances.
“The student members of the Horace Mann Orchestra demonstrate how fundamentally important the arts are in the education of the whole student,” said state Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple. “Today’s competitive global economy demands imaginative, resilient thinkers who can design and produce new ideas. The arts, including music, are where creativity, flexibility, innovation, understanding and empathy are consistently required and refined.”