The MMEA District Music Festival

Phoebe Mulder ’22

On November 11, a chilly fall morning, Dr. Davis and seven music students piled into a Berkshire suburban and headed off-campus. After much preparation, we were going to audition for the Western district music festivals.

The district festival is held annually and consists of both instrumental and vocal performances from high school students, who perform in either the orchestra, concert or jazz bands, or a 200 person chorus. It is organized by the Massachusetts Music Educators Association. 

Involvement in the previously mentioned performances is dependent on an audition. Students are given pieces of music to prepare, and travel to audition in front of musical professionals involved in the festival.

In the weeks leading up to the audition, Zeynep Lal Kara ’23, myself, Luke Nguyen ’21, Maia Tolentino ’21, Angela Ansah ’21, Christina Tao ’21, and Giang Le ’20 worked hard to prepare for the different components of the audition. Ansah and Tao auditioned for flute and violin seats, respectively, while the rest tried out for seats in the festival chorus. 

The wide scope of musical skill that is tested at the district audition means that everyone involved worked hard to prepare for the looming audition day. To better understand the different work everyone put in and experiences they had, I talked to a few of the students involved. In general, practice was put in during chorus and chamber ensemble classes as well as study hall hours. Students also met with Dr. Wu and Dr. Davis to perfect their pieces. 

Luke Nguyen ’21 and Giang Le ’20 even set the district audition song as their alarm, so that the melody would be easier to memorize. Maia Tolentino ’21 spoke to the importance of monitoring what you eat in the days leading up to the audition, staying hydrated, and doing daily vocal warm ups. 

All the work paid off, fortunately. For the first time in six years, according to Dr. Wu, every single student placed in the district festival. The good news was received a few weeks after the audition. Rehearsals for the district performance began in January, and the final performance was on January 11th. 

While Berkshire’s music program is uniquely strong, the sheer quantity of musicians involved in the district festival allows for amazing rehearsals and performances. 

When asked his favorite part of the MMEA district process, Dr. Davis quickly identified the final performance, speaking to the rare experience of performing in a 200 person choir or a large chamber orchestra; 

“We’re a school of 400, so we’re not going to field a 200 voice chorus, because that would require half of Berkshire to sing… We can’t produce that here. The concert band also has full brass, wind, percussion, and we can’t replicate that either – we don’t have the numbers.” 

While the performance was exciting, there was more on the horizon for a few Berkshire musicians. A high enough score qualifies a singer or musician to advance to the next level of auditions – auditioning for all-state performances. 

While the district performances only involve members of one of the five Massachusetts districts, All-state performances involve the best high school musicians from each state. 

Zeynep Lal Kara ’23, Maia Tolentino ’21, and Giang Le ’20 all qualified to audition in January for the all-state festival chorus. Le was accepted into the chorus, and awaits the performance process of early March. 

Overall, the MMEA audition process is rewarding, regardless of the outcome. However, the fact that every single Berkshire student who auditioned was accepted is a big accomplishment and promised a very fun district festival experience. 

As February brings more snow upon the mountain, Berkshire music students look ahead with enthusiasm to the MMEA performances to come and celebrate the ones which have passed.