Osbourn Fine Arts Receives Blue Ribbon

Osbourn Fine Arts receives first Blue Ribbon Award since school's inception

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For the first time ever, Osbourn’s music departments were able to accomplish receiving the Blue Ribbon Award. The Blue Ribbon Award is a distinguishment granted to schools whose band, orchestra and chorus departments each receive Superior ratings at their assessments. The Blue Ribbon is awarded when the top ensembles of each group earn a Superior rating.

“A combination of factors made it possible for us to earn the Blue Ribbon this year,” said Osbourn band director Andrew Wassum. “Having a new, enthusiastic orchestra teacher, me being able to structure the band for success and having a talented chorus teacher were just some of the things that made it possible.”

“The music department deserves this because everyone worked very hard towards getting the blue ribbon,” said junior orchestra student Gaby Cruz-Lopez.

A Superior rating is the highest rating an ensemble can earn. An ensemble is usually rated between one to five. A rating of five is classified as Poor and one is classified as Superior. For an ensemble to earn a one, they must  follow a certain criteria: everything must be correct and express musically. All the notes must be played correctly, all the expressions must be played correctly, all the dynamics must be played correctly, and all the other musical components, broad and detailed, must be put on display within one performance that each ensemble is provided with to played for the judges. This single opportunity means the band, orchestra, and chorus must be practiced, dedicated, and coordinated as a group.

“I think it is fair how they judged us. I believe that the system is fair where everyone had an equal chance of getting a Superior at assessment.” said senior Abigail Frazier.

“For assessment, we look at our songs in different kind of ways and tried to understand it. We also just keep rehearsing and rehearsing it and just keep find different perspective of the music so we could all come together.” said senior Kyle Barros.

With half of the criteria is based on the prepared pieces taken to assessment, learned and rehearsed repeatedly, the other half is based on sight reading. Sight reading is the portion in which the judges provide students sheet music, and the ensemble must learn and execute the music in the brief allotted time.

Preparing for assessment took significant time and effort from both teachers and students. It’s what every department works toward from the start of the school year.

“In the fall, we practice sight reading. In January we get our pieces, we practice these during our daily rehearsals; then finally, we have our preassessment concert which allow us to know what we need to improve,” said orchestra director Katie St. Pierre.

St. Pierre equally shares the accomplishment with the other directors.

“It was pretty exciting how it happened my first year here. I personally thought it was achievable because all the students had been working hard,” St. Pierre said.

Junior Maurice Lopez is one of the students involved in the symphonic band. The band and orchestra departments have had directors coming and going in recent years, which was at time an obstacle to success in the department, but this year was different.

“I believe that the dedication, effort, passion and time the teachers, along with the students, have put into their programs is what allowed for the Fine Arts Department to earn a Blue Ribbon,” Lopez said.

Band was the first to go to assessment and receive the superior rating, followed by orchestra. This meant it was up to the chorus department to allow the achievement.

OHS Band Director Andrew Wassum made it a priority to elevate the band program to the level of a Virginia Honor Band. The OHS Marching Band won its first Superior in over a decade at the VBODA Marching Assessment. The assessment was also an important milestone for the OHS Band to become a Virginia Honor Band. The band succeeded to earn that name of Virginia Honor Band.

“I think is assessment is more about individual work and fall concert and spring concert. That’s about Wassum pushing us and reaching our limit. But in assessment, we have to work individually because that’s how we get to the top. Wassum couldn’t lead us to Superior alone, but working on [our] own [brought us there],” said junior Ashley Osorio.

“We were last up for assessment and, at the time, it was a lot of pressure on us, but at the end of the day, everything went well,” said chorus director Angela Easley.