Melodies for the Holiday Season

Beckman’s String Orchestra and Wind Ensemble held their annual Winter Instrumental Concert with the new addition of electric instruments

December 11, 2019


Photo Courtesy of Ashley Koga

Mr. Kollias presents a speech before the String Orchestra performs.

IRVINE ‒ On Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019, Arnold O. Beckman High School’s String Orchestra and Wind Ensemble held their annual Winter Instrumental Concert at 7 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center, performing various holiday music and tracks from popular holiday movies.


The String Orchestra, directed by Mr. Jim Kollias, played the songs “Molly on the Shore,” “Siberian Sleigh Ride” and “First Snow,” as well as music from “Beauty and the Beast.” The Wind Ensemble, directed by Mr. Matt Bausman, performed the pieces “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “Sleigh Ride,” Russian Christmas music, “The Polar Express,” the “Nutcracker” suite and “Minor Alterations: Christmas Through the Looking Glass.” 


This year, Mr. Kollias and Mr. Bausman incorporated electric instruments to String Orchestra’s “First  Snow” performance to add a rock aspect to their standard holiday music. They invited Jason Mezilis to perform the electric guitar, and students also learned electric instruments to accompany the piece. Senior Justin Heo played the electric violin and sophomore Connor Slomann performed the electric bass.


“I don’t think any of us had seen an electric violin in our lives prior to this concert, and its addition was certainly very interesting,” commented junior Leo Baek. “We were all very happy to have performed with a professional guitarist as well.”


The String Orchestra and Wind Ensemble spent many weeks practicing their pieces; they would practice individually and with their sections, and then they would rehearse together to make sure all the sections harmonized and were in tune with the electric instruments. 


“We [even] had the privilege of having several clinicians work with us in the weeks leading up to this concert,” said senior Ashley Koga. “They gave us plenty of great pointers, and our sound improved a lot as a result!”


Students playing the electric instruments had to learn how to play the new instruments. While the electric version is not too different from the normal version, it required adjustments. 


“It was pretty similar to practicing on my normal violin but because I don’t own an amp, I had to practice by hooking it up to some headphones,” said senior Justin Heo. “Hearing my sounds amplified from the amp was also a unique experience because the sound of the electric violin can be controlled, it was different to hear my sound getting delayed or boosted for effect.”


Wind Ensemble, directed by Mr. Bausman, is performing one of their pieces. (Photo Courtesy of Ashley Koga)

Electric instruments were not the only twist to this year’s concert. They also performed special tracks to promote the upcoming “Beauty and the Beast” play.

“In the past years, we’ve always played classics like the Polar Express medley or Little Town of Bethlehem—all really representative of wintertime,” remarked senior Karina Patel. “This time around, we had the cool spin on our winter-themed music. We also paid attention to other events coming up when making our program and paid homage to them.”


The concert was another success for String Orchestra and Wind Ensemble. The audience enjoyed the seasonal pieces and the new additions that added more festivity to the concert.


“I loved being able to sit in the audience and observe the orchestra performing, especially my friends,” said junior Bahar Babagoli. “Something unique about this concert was that they implemented different instruments such as the electric guitar and electric violin! I really enjoyed it because it was fun seeing how interesting the piece became!”


The Winter Instrumental Concert concludes this year’s concerts, wrapping up the year and decade with electrifying festivity. The next concert will be the Stairway of the Stars concert in March of 2020. 


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