Orchestra Night resumes in the Ann Arbor Public Schools after a year off


Courtesy of Benson Liang

Clague 7th & 8th grade Orchestra performing in AAPS Orchestra Night at the Hill Auditorium (University of Michigan).

Satvika Ramanathan

For over 40 years, Ann Arbor Public Schools has been having an annual event at Hill Auditorium called Orchestra Night which is a place for all the high school and middle school orchestras in the district to perform for each other. On March 1, students got to go back after not having Orchestra Night last year due to the pandemic.

“It’s hard to put into words how surreal it felt,” Clague orchestra teacher Abigail Alwin said. “Just to be in that space and playing for an audience again, after what we’ve been through over the last few years, it felt like being plugged in again. It felt like things are starting to come back to normal a little bit, slowly. The fact that we could play for an audience was just such a gift- I felt really appreciative and grateful for the opportunity to do that again.”

Students had been preparing for this for a while, and on the night itself, they were there for approximately four hours. 

“I was very confident that the students would play well,” Alwin said. “I was really very confident. We had a great rehearsal a couple of days ago. The students are amazing- I love my students so much. They were so prepared and so excited. They brought so much energy to it.”

The idea of orchestras in the district started in the early 80s in Ann Arbor. First, Slauson and Tappan met in a park and played for each other, which sparked the idea of involving the rest of the district, which then led to getting Hill Auditorium. 

“Musical magic happens there,” Alwin said. “So for us to be having the opportunity to play in such a marvelous space is such an honor. It’s like a crown jewel in our community and to be able to perform there’s just awesome.”

Alwin also had the chance to play at Orchestra Night when she was a student in the Ann Arbor Public Schools. 

“When I was a kid, Orchestra Night was just magic,” she said. “I loved it so much and I loved orchestra so much. The incredible bond and memory and the experience of seeing the high school orchestras and being inspired and making friends who I’m still close to now are precious memories. Those were precious moments in my life. To know now that I can have that same opportunity for the students at Clague is everything.”

This year, some of the logistics were changed due to COVID. To prevent too many people in the space, they performed in clusters split up by which high school each middle school feeds into. Skyline, Forsythe, Ann Arbor Open, and Northside performed in the morning, Pioneer, Tappan, and Slauson performed in the afternoon, and Huron, Scarlett, and Clague performed in the evening. However, even though things were different, it still went smoothly.

“It was just one of those times when we were just in the flow and completely in the moment and feeling the exuberance of the music,” Alwin said.

She thinks that music is so important.

“Music just helps us so much as humans. We have to have music.”