By Adam Silvernail
A couple of times each year, students from Ellicottville Central School go off to other area school districts to perform at Solo Fest.
Solo Festival is an outlet for students to get a professional to critique their playing of a solo piece of music they’ve been practicing for months, as well as a chance to get other musical skills evaluated.
Solo Fest is voluntary, and both band and chorus for all grades participate. Solo Fest takes place on Jan. 24 and 25 as well as May 8 and 9 this year.
Solo Festival is generally hosted by a school bigger than Ellicottville Central, since kids from schools across the region participate. Students perform on either Friday or Saturday, depending on when they were scheduled to. They will perform the solo rated from levels 1 to 6 as well as scales and their ability to sight-read music in front of a judge.
The judge will then evaluate students’ performances and send the student’s score to their teacher, who’ll then give it to the students. Along with the score are a rubric and the reasons they scored what they did. Ideally, the rubric also comes with ways they could improve their scores in the future.
Students are graded out of 28 for lower levels or 100 points for higher, with the solo taking up a lot of the score and sight-reading and scales being less important. It is very difficult to achieve a perfect score, especially at the higher levels.
Crystal Wilder, the MS/HS band teacher, said Ellicottville Central has participated in Solo Fest for many years.
“I would say at least 40 to 50 years, though it may be longer than that,” she said.
Generally, Wilder said she sends between 20 and 35 students from band. Chorus teacher Pat Waldron and elementary band teacher Kathy Weller send students also, she added.
A lot of practice goes into performing well for Solo Fest, but different factors affect exactly how much practice is needed.
“It depends on the student, the level of solo, instrument and more,” Wilder said. “Generally, the higher the level, the more time will be needed. It’s like running a marathon; you can’t work on it for a few days and expect to do well. It takes months of consistency.”
If there is one thing Wilder wishes she could change about Solo Fest, she said, “To have students work harder on their solo and have more students want to do it.”
Jalee Evans said their favorite thing about Solo Fest is “being awarded a tangible numerical score that represents your strengths and weaknesses as a musician.”
However, for Jack Snyder, his favorite thing is being done with it.
“When you’re playing in front of the judge you get all nervous and you always play worse than you do in practice,” he said.
One student, who wished to remain anonymous, said “Meeting all the fun people at Solo Fest” is their favorite part.
Finally, Alex Hunt said their favorite part is meeting some of the judges.
“I’ve had some judges that were pretty cool people, and it was interesting to meet them,” they said.
With Solo Fest right around the corner, I’m confident any students participating will start practicing with fervor. Those that do will do great. Those that don’t…we’ll have to see.