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Kettle Run Music Department earns blue ribbon honors

Monday, Mar. 24 | By Hannah Dellinger
For the first time, Kettle Run High School's music department has achieved a “Blue Ribbon School” honor from the Virginia Music Educators Association (VMEA.)

The award is based off of the performance of three musical groups in the school: the band ensemble, chorus and orchestra. Each group performs music it has rehearsed since the beginning of the school year for a panel of judges and is ranked with a rubric system. Then the groups site-read music that they have never seen before and perform it for another set of judges. If each of the three groups receive a ranking of “superior” for both performances, the school receives a Blue Ribbon rating.

“We have gone to assessment every year with mixed results,” said Matt Yonkey, KRHS’s director of bands. “The stars really have to align for all three groups to get a superior ranking.”

Yonkey said that about 50 schools in Virginia receive the honor each year, depending on how they all perform.

“It’s definitely something that we strive for, but everybody in the state understands how difficult it is to happen,” said Yonkey.

The judges are usually current or retired high school music directors or college music directors
“You’re seeing a panel of judges that you don’t know and you don’t know how they’re going to react to the music that you’re playing,” said Yonkey. “You don’t know how the kids are going to react to the venue that we’re performing in. There are just so many things that have to happen on each of those events in order to get the blue ribbon honor.”

Another challenge this year was getting enough practice time despite all of the school closures due to wintry weather.

“The fact that we missed a lot of school because of the snow was the biggest worry going into it,” said Elisabeth Deavers, the chorus and orchestra director. “We missed a lot of rehearsal time. Individual practice is important, but having that seat time with the instructor and with everyone else in the group, that’s what you need to have ultimately.”

CJ Whitney is a senior at KRHS and he performed for the VMEA in the band and choir groups. He said that he was a bit worried going into the performances.

“We practiced for many months and then we had so much snow and time off from school,” said Whitney. “That’s time that the group isn’t together, so I was a little worried going into it. After we performed I knew that we would get a superior. It was very relieving to get the results after.”

Deavers said that she is very pleased with the outcome, but simply wanted her students to perform the best that they could.

“I just tell the kids that we have to do the best that we can so that we can be proud of our performance,” said Deavers. “If your best is a two rating, then it’s a two. But if our best truly is a one rating and we can give that, then we’re really excited.”

Whitney said that the students owe their achievement to their directors.

“It’s definitely thanks to the teacher,” said Whitney. “Mr. Yonkey and Ms. Deavers do an amazing job. They know what they’re doing and we just follow them to success.”

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