Pioneer boasts 22 student musicians at the annual All-State performance including the state’s concertmaster


Ashley Kou

The All-State ensembles this year included four principal chairs and concertmaster from Pioneer (Image courtesy of Ashley Kou).

On Jan. 29, Pioneer’s band and orchestra members performed with the All-State orchestra, band, and jazz ensembles at the Michigan Music Conference (MMC). Pioneer had 22 total students who were selected, with two principal chairs in orchestra, two principal chairs in band, and the concertmaster for orchestra all from Pioneer as well. 

Many who took part in the music conference felt energized by the opportunity.

Pioneer junior Chiho Sung led the state’s orchestra.“It was a really wild experience playing that piece,” in reference to Sequoia by Joan Tower, one of the four pieces that the orchestra played, whichSung felt was their hardest piece. 

Along with this piece, the orchestra played American Salute by Morton Gould, Farandole by Georges Bizet, and Three Dances for Dreams Fulfilled by Gardner. 

When asked how he felt entering the stage, Sung said the pressure was high.

“I was terrified … I had only ever been concertmaster once and that was in eighth grade … they messed up my entrance and it was kind of a mess, but that mess helped me calm down a tiny bit.”

Pioneer also had a principal chair in the trumpet section led by junior Ryo Morita who said she was also grateful for the performance. “I’m not sure how to describe it, but it was a really unique experience that I didn’t think I was going to have, but I’m glad I did it,” she said. 

Karinne Tennenbaum, a senior clarinetist in All-State Band, said she was nervous when she got on stage, but said she found comfort in the apparent excitement of the conductor. 

“Our conductor was super excited and she seemed totally confident, so it definitely rubbed off on me a little bit, so we got on stage, had a lot of fun … and in the end we did give the best performance that we had.” 

The All-State Band played four pieces: Big Four on the River by James David, a jazzy piece accompanied by the astutely-named Sleep by Eric Whitacre, which is about what it feels like to fall asleep. The Band also played Armenian dances by Aram Khachaturian, and La Mezquita de Córdoba (the Mosque at Córdoba) by Julie Giroux, which showcased the harmony between the various religions of Córdoba, Spain.

But before all the fun performances, students had spent long hours of rehearsal, from noon to 5 p.m. on Thursday, and 9- p.m. on Friday, with the performance following a day after Saturday. 

“It was maybe a little stressful with the short time that we had …we hadn’t run through any of our pieces fully, probably due to time constraints in the rehearsal itself,” said Tennenbaum about the All-State Band. 

Nonetheless, many said the constant rehearsing paid off. 

Sung, who never even expected to be selected for All-State, shared how the experience  further inspired his high school musical career and improved his self-esteem.. 

“When I auditioned for All-State, I had no intention of getting into it at all … even if you think you’re not going to get your goal, just try it, because literally anything could happen,”he said.

Tennenbaum, who was at All-State for the third time this year, shares some words of advice for anyone new to the All-State experience in the future years. 

“Turn to the person next to you and talk to them. They’re probably not from Ann Arbor …  but they play the same instrument and they also care about this. So be that first person to say ‘Hey!’.”