Outfits for the orchestras

Ethan Seylar '18 sings during "Monster Mash."

Bess Frerichs and Gwen Watson

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Funds gathered from the Halloween orchestra concert are being used to procure suits and dresses for the West High orchestras.

“We can’t keep our instruments in good repair without this special fund.”

— Stephanie Dotzel

The money raised from the Oct. 26 concert isn’t going to the ICCSD school district for repair, as is the case with most other concerts. It’s going directly to the orchestras themselves. Jon Welch, the orchestra conductor, decided to use this money to buy uniforms for the orchestras. He believes that they will add a bit of professionalism for the American String Teachers Association (ASTA) festival at which the symphony orchestra will perform on March 7-9 in Albuquerque, NM.

“There’s nothing really wrong with what we were doing before, dressing up in black, but my opinion is that this is a very special year for the orchestra.” Welch said. “We got accepted to play at the American String Teachers Association National Orchestra Festival and that’s a huge spotlight on our orchestra program, on the city here in Iowa City, and we’re going to be on a national stage literally playing in front of an audience of folks from all around the country.”

“This year the ASTA competition is a bit of a catalyst to get us to look our best.””

— Jon Welch

According to Welch, dressing formally is not only common, but also crucial. “Knowing that we’re going to a national stage playing the best music that we can possibly have and all those things, I thought that it would be most appropriate if we looked our best as well,” he said.

Even though the students from Northwest Junior High also played at the concert they won’t be getting uniforms. Stephanie Dotzel, the orchestra conductor at Northwest, explained this.

We are not planning on outfits for our Northwest students. In our publicity about the concert, we specified that the profits will be used for uniforms for current and future West High Orchestra students.”

Unfortunately the outfits are a bit pricey.

“For all the tuxedos and dresses, to get them on everybody along with bags so we can travel with and a couple of extra accessories, it’s going to be roughly $10,000,” Welch said. So far they’ve reached half their goal, and he hopes to be finished with fundraising by Jan. 1.

And that’s not the only concern.

“If they look nice, I will really enjoy them,” Catherine Ju ’19 said, “but I’m a little bit afraid that they’re going to be not very flattering.”

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The Halloween concert was an idea from a previous school at which Mr. Welch taught.

“A few years ago when I was in Cincinnati, we did a Halloween concert and it was just a lot of fun, the community loved it, the students really liked it,” Mr. Welch explains.

Playing “Monster Mash” was also a recurrence from Cincinnati.

“I found [“Monster Mash”] in 2014, whenever it came out for orchestra, we tried it with the orchestra and just had so much fun. It’s easy to put together, it’s fun for everyone, everybody can come together and just have a good time.”

Ju really enjoyed “Monster Mash” too. “My favorite part was the “Monster Mash,” bringing in Ethan to sing, he was really great. He was all dressed up and just went wild on the stage. He was really into it and having that kind of energy just made the whole orchestra enjoy it a bit more.”

At the start of concert orchestra’s performance, Mr. Welch got wheeled out in a coffin.

My favorite part of the concert was seeing Mr. Welch in a coffin and being wheeled out on stage.” Dotzel said.

“I stole that idea from my mentor, again back in Cincinnati, he did it a long time ago, back in the eighties,” Mr. Welch said. “[It’s] just a way to add a little fun and a gag to the concert.”

Surprisingly, Mr. Welch had two options for coffins. “It turns out that coffin was in the drama department,” he said, “It just kind of lives here.” He was able to fit into the first one, so the backup wasn’t needed.

The decorations for the concert were a big community effort. “Some of [the decorations] were donated, some of them were mine, some of them belonged to orchestra families,” Mr. Welch explained.

A few students pitched in to help decorate the tombstones, which all had names of dead composers written on them.

With all the effort that was put into it, everyone seemed to love it. “It went really well, the junior high, they were prepared and we didn’t have to spend too much time running through anything together.” Ju said.

Welch was very happy with the amount of people who dressed up.

“There were a lot of really good [costumes]. The avocado from one of the seventh or eighth grade was really good. I was really impressed at the amount of people that showed up dressed as me and I could tell that there were a few people in the audience who dressed up too.”

Dotzel also mentioned a few of her favorites. “I enjoyed seeing a traffic light, an avocado, a tree and of course the entire Symphony cello section dressing as Mr. Welch.”

As a cellist, Ju was one of the students to dress up as Welch. “We had some orange face paint on, some plaid shirts, jeans, tennis shoes, pencil behind the ear – that’s key.”

“It was just kind of a unique way to do something a little bit different, and to show that we can make music, but we can also have fun while doing so,” Welch said. “It’s a nice change of pace for the audience, for them to come in and see we’re trying something new, and I think for the kids as well, so we can all get together and just have a little bit of fun.”

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