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LHS Symphony Orchestra selected as semi-finalist in national competition

Date: 5/10/2010

May 10, 2010

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

LONGMEADOW -- The Longmeadow High School (LHS) Symphony Orchestra has already had the privilege of playing in one of America's most hallowed music venues, Carnegie Hall. Now, the orchestra is being honored as a semi-finalist in the first ever competition for the American Prize.

"I am so proud of my kids and so happy for them," Michael Mucci, symphony conductor and chair of the music department at LHS, said. "They've worked so hard for this, both inside and outside the school."

The American Prize is a series of new, non-profit, national competitions designed to recognize and reward the very best in the performing arts in the United States. The American Prize was founded in 2009 by David Katz, who now serves as the chief judge of the competition, and prizes will be awarded annually in many areas of the performing arts. This is the first year awards will be given.

The LHS Symphony Orchestra is currently a semi-finalist; its only competitor is the Patriot Orchestra at A.E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Ill.

The LHS orchestra is made up of 60 strings and 45 winds and percussion. The students work together with Mucci to decide which pieces will be performed each year, a practice Mucci said started decades ago because it incorporates student ownership of the music.

The application submitted for the American Prize included the symphony's performance of Charles Ives' "Symphony No. 2" at Carnegie Hall two years ago. Mucci said that performance was "a well-balanced program and it was well-received" by those attending the National Orchestra Festival at the hall.

"I had heard of Longmeadow before [the competition] through the National Orchestra Festival," Katz told Reminder Publications. "I looked at the repertoire they performed at Carnegie Hall [in their application]. It's very technical . . . it's robust, energetic and played at a very high level for a high school orchestra. They've ranked very well in the judging."

Katz said he received a great pool of applicants in the first year of the competition over 100 submissions from 26 states and the District of Columbia.

"Great music is being made locally. We're raising awareness of it nationally," he said.

"I hope this [competition] is a shot in the arm for high schools, for conductors, for communities," Katz added. "There are very special things going on in the music department."

Mucci hopes the honor "will open up more eyes and ears" to the quality of the music program in Longmeadow.

Budget cuts facing the school department mean that the fifth grade strings program may be cut, something that could prevent the high school orchestra from applying for an award like this in the future, according to Mucci.

"The entire K - 12 music program should be proud," he said.

Finalists for the American Prize will be announced this week; winners will be announced in mid-June. More information on the American Prize can be found at

The LHS Symphony Orchestra will present its major works concert on May 13 at 7 p.m. in the LHS auditorium. Tickets are $5 each.