"We are going to start off tonight's performance with the backline playing. I want the rest of you to feel the beat," said Barrage musician Daniel Pentecost to a large group of middle and high school orchestra students. "Let's see you move. I need everyone to smile and groove to the beat. If I'm out in the audience and you look really comfortable playing on stage I think, as an audience member, that you know what you are doing and that's why you sound so good."
Barrage is a high-energy fiddle fest, weaving together extraordinary musicianship and dance with traces of everything from country to heavy metal music. Five violinists are backed up with wild and interesting percussion, strong vocals, guitar, bagpipes and expertly executed choreography. The result is a show that blows the doors off Stomp and Riverdance alike. Barrage held workshops for local orchestra students before their joint performance. Washington Middle School orchestra students, under the direction of Nina Karbacka, were lucky enough to be part of the fun.
"I am trained in classical music but Barrage showed me that there are multiple ways to play," said Washington Middle School orchestra member Hannah Anderson. "They give you a different way to express yourself with music. They really move when they play, which is fun and different from what we have done in traditional orchestra."
Washington Middle School orchestra students Hannah Anderson, Margaret Williams, Amelia Dolce and Savannah Lawrence met with Barrage members.
The Barrage workshop and performance is just one of many exciting activities that the Washington Middle School orchestra participates in every year. The 30-member orchestra meets three times a week during supervisory period and most of the orchestra students participate, not only in the orchestra, but also band and chorus.
"Music just makes me happy" said Washington School student Matthew Leon. "But music also develops your brain, which helps me in my regular school work. We are lucky to have music as part of our day."
The Washington Orchestra, and its smaller String Ensemble, performs around the community including three times a year at Lutheran Social Services and the Interclub Council Meeting. They also have many opportunities to play with professionals like Barrage including the Western New York Chamber Orchestra, guest workshops with Dr. Bart Rotberg from Mercyhurst College and trips to the see the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. They also have multiple performances at Washington School each year, including their Holiday Concert on Dec. 20 at 7 p.m. The public is welcome to attend this holiday event. Washington English Language Arts teacher Jason Williams will be a special guest soloist on the triangle during the group's "Concerto for Triangle."
Recently, four Washington music students also participated in Junior High Area All-State in Akron, N.Y. - Margaret Williams, Hannah Anderson, and Savannah Lawrence for Orchestra, and Matthew Leon for band. Area All State is honors music ensembles - band orchestra and chorus comprised of the finest young musicians from Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Erie and Niagara Counties in grades 7 to 9. They are selected by NYSSMA solo festival rating.
"All of the music teachers at Washington Middle School facilitate the schedules so students can participate in all three ensembles, chorus, band and orchestra," said Mrs. Karbacka. "We know the more exposure and opportunity that students have to music, the better they will be, not only as musicians, but as students."