TSO receives big honor as it prepares for performance
Most Tecumseh residents are familiar by now with the Tecumseh Public Schools (TPS) orchestra program, but many are not aware how widely known the musicians are. That point was brought home recently by the selection of the Tecumseh Symphony Orchestra (TSO) as one of only three orchestras that will perform for at the prestigious Michigan Music Conference (MMC). The MMC is a convention of music educators from around the state and the Tecumseh High School musicians will play for them and the public at the DeVos Auditorium in Grand Rapids, Friday, Jan. 18, at 1:15 p.m.
“This is one of the highest honors that an orchestra can achieve,” said Michael Bough, instrumental music instructor for Tecumseh schools and director of the TSO. “For the orchestra to have come this far in its development in the 10 years of its existence is a testament to the dedication of the kids in the program.”
The path to the musical “state championship,” as it could be termed, was winding and arduous. “There are many tests and hurdles to get to the level of an appearance at the Michigan Music Conference,” Bough said. “The orchestra played at many events and festivals where adjudicators listen to the performance and make a suggestion that the orchestra tryout for the MMC.” In a typical year, between 45 and 75 school orchestras apply and submit recordings in the competition to play at the state concert.
After two tryouts and an official application, orchestras are asked to submit a “blind” CD recording, which will be the final round in the selection process for the MMC appearance. The CD auditions are “blind” in that they are labeled with a code that identifies the corresponding orchestra only after the final selections are made. Two high school orchestras are selected, and this year, besides the TSO, the Ann Arbor Pioneer High School Symphony Orchestra was selected for the honor along with one middle school orchestra.
“The selection of the TSO speaks to the support and goodwill of our community, the influence of the Elizabeth Ruthruff Wilson Foundation, and to the fine education that the music department is providing for our students,” said Wilson Foundation Director Theresa Powers. “A trip to perform at a prestigious venue such as this is a once in a lifetime experience for the students.”
Of course, the trip will not be all work and no play. The musicians will leave Thursday, Jan. 17, and after a brief rehearsal there will be a pizza buffet followed by a pool party in the Ramada Plaza Hotel where they are staying.
For the actual concert, the Tecumseh students will be directed by the very familiar figure of Amy Marr, who has tutored all of the string players since most began formal training in fifth grade. They will also be under the baton of another familiar conductor in Bob Phillips who was the first director of the Tecumseh strings program. Besides his teaching and conducting career, Phillips is a well-respected composer and has prepared a piece dedicated to the TSO, Wilson Foundation and its director, which will premiere in the DeVos Auditorium.
The cost of the trip has been underwritten by several organizations. Among the most prominent are the Friends of the Tecumseh Schools Orchestra, which is a nonprofit organization that supports the string students in all their undertakings, including their trip to Grand Rapids. The Friends are hosting a benefit auction and dessert buffet at the high school on Saturday, Oct. 20, at 6:30 p.m. with the partial purpose of helping to finance the students’ MMC/Grand Rapids trip.
“We have tried to limit the expense to the students for the trip as much as possible,” said Friends President Kathy Koch. “We don’t want anyone not to be able to go for lack of money, that’s why a portion of the proceeds from the auction will be used to support the MMC trip.” Koch added that local businesses and TPS, with the approval by the school board, have been extremely helpful in support of the TSO. She said that the logistics of the trip go beyond the transportation of the students, themselves. An additional truck must be rented to carry the instruments and other equipment that will not fit on the chartered motor coach.
“We should have a good representation from the Tecumseh area at the concert,” said Bough. “Each student was given two tickets to the performance and admission is open to the general public also. It will be a very sophisticated audience when you consider that the top music educators from around the state will be in attendance, also.”
Powers winters in Florida, but said that she will be flying back to Michigan expressly for the purpose of hearing the TSO in Grand Rapids. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” she said.