Klein Orchestra gets Storybook Ending

Students win National Award

The Klein Orchestra prepares for the performance of a lifetime in New York. They won National Champions after almost missing their performance. Courtesy of the Klein Orchestra Twitter

Think of that movie you saw when you were younger. It was about a young group doing something they loved. They were a group of underdogs who practiced and trained to perform in a competition to do what they were passionate about.

Then chaos ensues.

The performance is in doubt, but the group manages to pull together at the last moment to show up and win the whole competition. Everyone had a movie like that they loved as a kid. Now, imagine this wasn’t a movie, but the story of how the Klein High orchestra became the best in the nation this year.

On March 3, the Bearkats arrived in New York City for their orchestra competition, a day later than they were supposed to arrive. They made it to their performance after the time they were scheduled to play and were allowed to be the last orchestra to perform.

At any normal competition, this might cause pandemonium for the students and teacher, much less at a national competition, the grand stage for the top orchestras in the country. The Bearkats, however, stayed calm, persevered, and delivered the performance of their lifetime, and were named the best orchestra in the country in 2018.

“It’s a national competition that orchestras across the country compete in,” orchestra director Creston Herron said. “You have organizations ranging from public schoo

ls to performing arts schools. It is by invitation, and last year we won the state competition, so we got the invitation from the organization who ran nationals. It was a fantastic opportunity for our kids to participate in.”

What should have been an ordinary trip turned into anything but that. As the students arrived at the airport at 6a.m., the trip turned south very fast.

“We went at a very bad time,” senior Ashley Liu said. “We ran into the middle of a storm. Our first attem

pt at landing failed, and the pilot took us back up. After the second failed landing, they took us overnight to Pittsburgh, which was unplanned.

The students who had to perform the next day at 10 a.m., were diverted to Pittsburgh overnight, while all of their luggage w

as New York , and they were left without any of their belongings except for their backpacks.

“It felt very disgusting because we were all wearing dirty clothes by that point,” Liu said.

Herron, however, goes out of his way to mention how great the kids handled the situation.

“The kids were so flexible and fantastic,” Herron said. “They made the whole thing easier.”

In the morning, the whole orchestra, many of which were wearing the same clothes they wore 24 hours earlier, trudged on to New York to gather their instruments, and one thing became clear. They weren’t going to make their scheduled playtime.

“We got to New York to get our instruments, and then we raced to downtown to our performance at 11:30, well after our performance time”, Herron said. “I think most orchestras, the kids would just be frantic and terrified by this point, but these kids were so focused and so positive. There were certain organizations (schools) who were not as willing to work with us, but the kids did so well.”

As the orchestra showed up at nationals, an hour and a half after their original time slot, working against other organizations who were not as willing to help them, and only minutes to prepare for one the most important moments of their lives, the Bearkats gave their best performance yet.

“At a competition where you would assume everyone is in it for themselves, we got a standing ovation from our competitors,” Herron said. “It was amazing.”

After their standing ovation, all that was left to do was wait for the results and hope the last 30 hours had been worth it. The kids listened, barely daring to breathe as the judges announced the results.

“It was an eruption,” Herron said. “The work, the countless hours and rehearsals that were put into this one performance on a national stage. That was the best performance they’ve ever had. You could see the passion explode from their faces.”

Most of the orchestra students couldn’t agree more. Seeing their hard work come together on a national stage felt surreal to many of them, including orchestra student president Brandt Swanson.

“It meant a lot, because we’ve always pushed to get better, and I feel like winning helped prove we’ve gotten a lot better,” senior Brandt Swanson said.

Making nationals is a pipe dream for most, and for a group of students that had all put in hundreds of hours of practice, this moment was huge for them.

“It’s my best achievement,” Liu said. I’ll be able to tell this to my friends. I’ll be able to tell my kids, your mom was part of an orchestra that won nationals.”

For Herron, winning nationals is more than just the award, and the teacher gives a line that sounds like it was written for the end of a story like this.


“Winning awards is nice and, first off, this trophy is as big as me, which is impressive, but what gets me is seeing right when they found out they won,” Herron said. “That joy and seeing how proud they are of themselves. Seeing that and the confidence they have in themselves grow. It carries over, and not just in orchestra. That’s the kind of stuff I liked the most.”

Sometimes, reality can be as interesting as fiction, and maybe even surpass it. The storybook ending straight out of a movie leaves a storied mark in Bearkat history. Herron can see it too.

“We’re gonna have to talk to Disney,” Herron said. “We could be a movie. That would be pretty neat. They have Remember the Titans; Remember the Bearkats.”