The student-run newspaper of the Liberal Arts and Science Academy

The Liberator

The student-run newspaper of the Liberal Arts and Science Academy

The Liberator

The student-run newspaper of the Liberal Arts and Science Academy

The Liberator

String Fest

LASA Seniors Mentor Young Musicians
LASA Orchestra
IN HARMONY | LASA Orchestra students lead middle school students through a musical piece. The event was held at the Delco Activity Center.

High school seniors play a large role in the Austin Independent School District’s (AISD) Fall Festival for Strings. They take on the responsibility of mentoring, teaching, and guiding the younger musicians, drawing from the culmination of knowledge they obtained during their musical journey. These seniors become the guiding notes for the next generation of orchestra students. 

Established in 1973 by William Dick, the Fall Festival for Strings, otherwise known as the String Fest, is an annual event designed to benefit all of the sixth-grade orchestra students in AISD. LASA has been a part of this tradition ever since its establishment. Rachel Horvitz is the LASA orchestra director and has been teaching for over two decades. She attended the String Fest with the participating LASA seniors.

 “This is an Austin ISD event that’s been happening for a long time,” Horvitz said. “All the beginner orchestra students learn a set of songs. And then they come together in early November to perform. They do like a mass rehearsal, and then have their lunch, and then give a performance, and parents and family are invited to come back. So for these students, it’s their first performance.”

LASA Orchestra

Around 800 beginner orchestra students attend this event every year, along with seniors across the district, whose role is to assist the sixth-grade students in rehearsing for their performance. Parents will attend to watch their kids perform, making the String Fest the largest music event in the district with over 1,000 people in attendance.

According to Horvitz, when the seniors go to the festival, they don’t have to prepare anything since they already know all the pieces. The seniors will just have to brush up on any details that they may have forgotten and show up ready to help the sixth graders. Akhila Jallepalli is one of the LASA orchestra seniors who attended the String Fest. 

“We just played through them a few times before we rehearsed,” Jallepalli said. “The sixth graders, though, learn their first pieces to play at this concert. Because this is their first time performing, there is a lot of preparation made.”

Vedanth Ramanathan, another LASA orchestra senior and the orchestra president, shared his experience from the String Fest. He and the other seniors in orchestra assist the sixth-grade students with their technique and confidence in the pieces. 

ENSEMBLE | LASA Orchestra students lined up in front of the Delco Activity Center. String Fest, or the Fall Festival for Strings, was established in 1973 by William Dick. (LASA Orchestra)

“It was our job to correct stuff we saw,” Ramanathan said. “Giving them that confidence and that supportive environment I think was the most important part.”

Throughout the festival, Ramanathan noted that the sixth graders learn the importance of confidence in their performance and how it all comes together in the ensemble. For the piece to work, every individual’s contribution matters. 

“Some of them think ‘If I don’t play, no one’s going to notice because I’m one out of 800,’” Ramanathan said. “But we wanted everyone to play…and a lot of them were obviously shy at first to talk to high school seniors. But after getting to know them and giving them tips, most of them actually knew everything. But we gave them that motivation to do it, because in the long run that’s gonna obviously help them.”

Kayla Le

For the sixth graders in orchestra, Horvitz mentions that she thinks it’s inspiring for them to see students stick with it all the way through high school. Interacting with the seniors gives them something to aspire towards. 

“It’s part of that connection, that musical community, and seeing that continuity of these students who stick with it, and continue playing their instruments is inspiring for them to see,” Horvitz said. “Our seniors are very helpful with the events. So they help tune and help teach them the notes and the bowings. They’re just generally encouraging, so they make those personal connections to the kids too.”

According to Jallepalli, there was some nervous excitement amongst the students. Many students volunteered to lead the pieces.

“There were definitely some students that were a little on the shy side, but I could tell that they were excited to perform,” Jallepalli said. “It is so cool that AISD offers such opportunities for beginner string players. I attended many string camps when I was younger and we had similar play-in experiences.”

Even though they did not go to the String Fest in middle school, these seniors see this as an amazing experience and opportunity for beginner players and themselves alike. This festival is also very important to strengthening the relationships between schools around the district, according to Ramathan. 

“This connection between our middle schools, even elementary schools and high schools, had gone completely out the window,” Ramanathan said. “But, I feel like [String Fest] is one thing I can say AISD actually does okay at, is bridging that gap.” 

String Fest was also one of the last events that the seniors in LASA orchestra will do together. Ramanathan mentioned that because of this, the festival became much more meaningful to them.

“I loved just seeing how far they’d come in playing,” Ramanathan said. “Even though it was just beginner pieces and playing for their parents or their orchestra directors and AISD faculty. It was super cool to see them actually playing with more confidence than when they entered.” 

The Fall Festival for Strings brings together mentorship, musical enthusiasm, and community cohesion. It not only commemorates the musical journey of each participant but also guarantees that the threads of connection between them echo through generations within AISD.

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