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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘The difference between sounding good and sounding great’: High school musicians from across Spokane get guidance from the pros at Celebration of Music

Nov. 22, 2022 Updated Tue., Nov. 22, 2022 at 9:19 p.m.

Spokane Symphony Music director James Lowe mimics a violin as he instructs the violin section on the nuances of how to play music during a workshop for high school Honor Orchestra students before they performed Tuesday night in “A Celebration of Music” concert at the First Interstate Center for the Arts.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)
Spokane Symphony Music director James Lowe mimics a violin as he instructs the violin section on the nuances of how to play music during a workshop for high school Honor Orchestra students before they performed Tuesday night in “A Celebration of Music” concert at the First Interstate Center for the Arts. (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)
By Jim Allen For The Spokesman-Review

For hundreds of high school musicians from across Spokane, inspiration was everywhere Tuesday at the Spokane Convention Center.

All day, they rehearsed and fine-tuned their craft while learning from some of the best. They had the opportunity to perform that night for families and friends in the biennial Celebration of Music, made even more special this year because the pandemic canceled the 2020 event.

“We’re all pretty excited to be back,” said Ben Brueggemeier, band director at Ferris High School.

Choir members learned from Meg Stohlmann, the director of choral and vocal studies at Gonzaga University, where she conducts the Glee Club, Concert Choir and Chamber Singers.

Down the hall, wind ensemble and percussion sections were inspired by Danh Pham, the music director for both the Washington-Idaho Symphony Orchestra and the Coeur d’Alene Symphony Orchestra.

And next door, on stage at the First Interstate Center for the Arts, orchestra performers were learning the fine points from James Lowe, the Music Director of the Spokane Symphony since 2019.

Lowe could sense the students’ nerves and urged them to lose the “stiffness” and let their creativity flow.

His mission was accomplished. For Emily Schreiber, a junior viola player at Ferris High School, stage fright was eased by Lowe’s patient teaching.

“He’s been really good at easing those nerves, at least for me,” Schreiber said. “It was really interesting to hear how he puts his expression in to music, especially about making sure that you put as much music as possible into each note.”

For fellow viola player Justin Park, a senior at Lewis and Clark, the little things made all the difference.

“His interpretations of music, and also the analogies he makes with specific bowings and sound and experimenting with the color and the tone of the sound is very interesting,” Park said.

Pham, who also serves as conductor of the symphony orchestra and director of bands at Washington State University, tried to bring out the best in the band.

At one point, he urged the percussionists to “set off the brass a little better” and reminded everyone to articulate.

Stohlmann had fun with her group, drawing a laugh when she said the tenors were singing “at least half of the notes.” She also drew cheers with her own singing.

The teachers from Spokane’s five comprehensive high schools also appreciated the opportunity.

“The big thing for them, which is incredible, is just the really fine detail work that makes the difference between sounding good and sounding great,” Brueggemeier said.

“And getting them to think and hear differently than they normally do. That detail that makes it sparkle and make it shine,” Brueggemeier said.

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