Goshen's orchestra had a crazy year, but they are still headed to state

Students lost their directer mid-way through the year and snow canceled many of their rehearsals. But they and several other local groups are headed to the ISSMA state concert finals this weekend.

Posted on May 8, 2014 at 4:46 p.m.

Goshen High School's orchestra fought hard for their spot at state finals.

They lost their teacher, had many rehearsals cancelled because of the rough winter, and faced low scores at their qualifying site.

But they squeaked into the state finals, which automatically makes them the eighth best high school orchestra in the state according to the Indiana State School Music Association

"Now it's time to have fun," Brian Mast, orchestra director, said. "We are in the top eight in the state and no one can take that away from us."

Goshen's orchestra is just one local group competing in the ISSMA state concert finals this Friday and Saturday, May 9-10. Goshen High School's two choirs are also going as well as choir groups from Northridge and Fairfield.

But the only orchestra from this area to make it to state is Goshen's symphonic orchestra.

Mast said that's incredible, mostly because he's only been working with the students for a few months. Their longtime directer, Susan Ellington, stepped down mid-year because of some health issues. 

"I started partway through February and the students didn't know me from anyone," Mast said, laughing. "They overcame those challenges and really pulled it together."

He saw a lot of student leadership, especially from younger students as they took it upon themselves to organize extra practice time.

Ellington, who retired this year after 18 years at Goshen Schools, said she gave her students a firm speech before she left. 

"I told the students, 'It’s not my orchestra, it’s your orchestra,'" she said. "I told them, 'I expect you to finish strong. You are all talented students and that’s the way we do it at Goshen.'"

The orchestra competes Saturday, and Mast said his goal is for the students to do their best and not to finish last.

"It’s tough," he said. "Carmel wins every year and by a lot. And both their orchestras qualified this year, so Carmel has two of the eight orchestras represented."

But he and other music directers at Goshen often tell the kids that the judging is totally subjective.

"We told the students: the only thing we can control in this performance is how well we play," Mast said. "We may make it, we may not make it. The ultimate goal is to have learning happen."

Schedule of competition at Pike Performing Arts Center, Indianapolis:

Friday, May 9

Northridge's Starlights Women's Chorus 8:22 p.m.

Goshen's Crimson Men's Choir 8:58 p.m.

Saturday, May 10

Goshen's Symphonic Orchestra 12:25 p.m.

Fairfield's Advanced Choir 4:10 p.m.

Northridge's Lyric Lights Mixed Chorus 4:28 p.m.

Goshen's Advanced Crimson Choir 6:44 p.m.

Follow reporter Lydia Sheaks on Twitter at @LydiaSheaks

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