The Ashland High School Chamber Orchestra now ranks within the top 10 in the state.

The student musicians traveled May 9 to Corvallis to compete in the OSAA state championships, where Oregon schools vie against each other with three judges grading the performance.

"First off, we performed very well." Gerry Par&

233;, director of orchestras at AHS, said. "The kids really stepped up and out and delivered a fine performance with a rigorous repertoire."

At the end of the championships, the OSAA posts the top five orchestras &

usually Salem or Portland schools, Par&

233; said.

This year was no different, with Reynolds High of Troutdale coming in at first place. The rest of the scores are listed but not identified until the score sheets arrive in the mail. Last year, AHS Chamber Orchestra ranked 13th of 15 orchestras.

"Out of 15 schools, Class 6A all the way to 1A, Ashland Chamber Orchestra landed at eighth place in the state," Par&

233; said. "It was a great feeling. Even more satisfying were the comments from our judges: Great choice of music, very well rehearsed, terrific expression, wonderful solos, etc. etc."

Many of the students have been playing their instruments since as early as fifth grade, Par&

233; said.

"This year we have good music that is fun to play," Avvy Young, a senior in the orchestra, said.

Part of the competition was to sight-read a piece, which means the musicians had not seen the music before.

"We had seven minutes to talk through it," Par&

233; said. "We could not play our instruments during the seven-minute 'talk through.' After that, we played the piece 'cold.' It proved to be quite exciting but very nerve-wracking."

This year, the orchestra is composed of many seniors who add to the group's experience level.

"We're a smaller ensemble, so we are working more cohesively," Josh Houghton, a senior in the group, said.

The orchestra started off with a bang in March at the League Orchestra Festival held at Grants Pass High School. Schools from Klamath Falls, Medford, Ashland and Grants Pass were represented. Ashland Chamber Orchestra received the highest marks of any orchestra in the 5A league and the 6A league for Southern Oregon.

"After the District Festival, we continued to work on our music by studying the judges comments and making changes and refinements based on their critique of our performance," Par&

233; said. "We also added another piece to our performance to make sure we met the time qualification for state."

The AHS Chamber Orchestra has one more performance this year, on June 6 at Lithia Park. The orchestra will join with the Ashland High School Band and perform at the AHS graduation. They will play the traditional "Pomp and Circumstance" and also music from the "Harry Potter" film series.

"During the summer, students go to music camps, take private lessons and just plain relax," Par&

233; said. "I will be looking for new repertoire for next year and doing some relaxing, as well."