Santa Monica High School orchestra plays Washington DC concerts

Santa Monica orchestra member Eli Brown
Santa Monica orchestra member Eli Brown
Kitty Felde/KPCC

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The Santa Monica High School orchestra visited Washington, D.C. this week for a pair of concerts.

The SaMo High students stopped at all the usual D.C. tourist spots, but since they’re also musicians, they also had meetings that amounted to master classes with instrumentalists from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Trumpet player Eli Brown particularly liked working with conductor Markand Thakar. "It was very interesting to see a different perspective and a different interpretation of the same music."

Violinist Ilana Greenberg said it illustrated what orchestra director Joni Swenson’s been telling her for years. "He had such different tempos," she said. "It taught us really how to watch, and you can’t just make the assumptions." Greenberg said Thakar had to stop numerous times during the first run through, as though he were saying, “Guys, I’m taking this a lot slower than you’re playing it.”

Harpist Mari Legagnoux performed twice on the trip. She said she thought it would be more stressful. "I think everyone’s pretty relaxed because we’ve played the music so many times."

The students say the days were long, running from 7 Friday morning to the White House, the Capitol, rehearsals and performances. "It’s kind of hectic," said Legagnoux, "especially at airports and unloading the bus and reloading the bus, so it takes a while to go anywhere."

But all three were impressed with the history of the city and the monuments that show up in movies, and even on U.S. currency. "You could never find that history in Santa Monica," said Greenberg. "It’s just not there."

Legagnoux got very quiet when she described her D.C. experience. "It just makes you feel kind of small, because you’re in the same place where our Founding Fathers walked."

The orchestra returns to Santa Monica on Sunday.