The Santa Monica High School Chamber Orchestra took first place in the chamber orchestra division at the 40th Annual Northwest Orchestra Festival in Gresham, Ore. March 9, where 54 schools competed.
The victorious Samohi orchestra was led by orchestra director Joni Swenson.
“The literature which chamber performed was varied in style and quite challenging,” said Swenson. “I am thrilled and proud of the students for their work in preparing the pieces and for their focus in executing the music at such a level of artistry.”
During a three-day trip to the Portland area, the Samohi group received expert coaching sessions at Portland State University from violinist Carol Sindell and cellist Hamilton Cheifetz. Sindell is a student of Jascha Heifetz, considered one of the most influential violinists of the 20th century. An internationally known solo artist, Cheifetz studied under celebrated cellist and pedagogue János Starker, and has performed at the White House.
Santa Monica High’s Chamber Orchestra is comprised of the school’s top 20 string players, who meet twice weekly after school and frequently perform in the community, sometimes stepping outside the classical repertoire.
Last May the Chamber Orchestra backed up Glenn Frey of The Eagles in a concert at the Wiltern Theatre.
Earlier this month the chamber was one of five Samohi orchestra ensembles that performed at the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association Festival hosted by Santa Monica High School. All five ensembles received unanimous “superior” ratings from adjudicators.

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