Written by Sarah O’Donnell
It was their first time competing for each Forest Grove High School student that placed in the OMEA State Solo and Ensemble competition this April, and their success was far beyond what they had hoped for. At districts, two soloists and one percussion ensemble placed first in their categories, sending them all to the state competition. Edgar Sanchez, a senior, competed as a flutist, Tara Palazuelos, a junior, as a mezzo soprano, and Emilee Fatua, Nathaniel Torry-Schrag, Leif Jorgensen, Jared Chesebro, and Cecilia Calderon competed as a percussion ensemble.
Edgar Sanchez, a senior, has been playing flute since seventh grade, but never thought he would make it this far. On his unexpected journey to state, he was surrounded by other flutists accompanied by their families and flute mentors, but Edgar has had no training or coaching outside of school. He says “I’ve never taken a private lesson and no one in my family is involved with music. It was just me,”. Edgar of course placed first at districts and 7th at the state competition. What started off as a nudge from Mr. Schlazer, the Forest Grove High School band director, turned into a wild success. Edgar explains “If you do sports, music, horseback riding, whatever, even if you don’t have the resources to get yourself private lessons, if you put in enough effort and really strive to do your best, you can accomplish anything.”
As a mezzo-soprano, Tara Palazuelos made her way to state with a near perfect score of 97. She’s competed in many competitions outside of school, but never a competition through high school. It was a stressful day, from midnight when she began scrambling extra copies of music until the moment of performance where her pianist sight read her music, but that didn’t stop her from placing second at state. “It was a nice surprise to hear how well I had done, but it wasn’t pure luck.” Tara says. “I put in so much work, and for this competition, the hardest part was characterization for the songs. I have one piece from the opera Carmen that’s very sassy and seductive. Not exactly my personality,” but she pulled off the sass, pulled off her competition gown, pulled on her prom dress, and probably pulled out a cough drop too. Tara also happened to be sick the weekend of Solo and Ensemble. “It was sort of the perfect storm,” she says, with being sick, attending prom, the of airing her interview on All Classical radio station, and the state competition all on the same day, but she pulled it off with astonishing success.
The percussion ensemble placed twelfth at state after receiving an almost perfect score at districts. “We really had no idea how we’d place,” said Leif Jorgensen, a junior at Forest Grove, “But overall it was a very cool opportunity that our band program doesn’t get very often.” Participation in the Solo and Ensemble competition began as a request from Mr. Schlazer who said it would be a good experience for students, even if no one placed. The goal was to see the band develop and grow confidence, but these seven students achieved much more.