Following multiple assessments during the month of March, the music department has been awarded the Blue Ribbon distinction from the Virginia Music Educators Association.

This distinction is awarded to programs whose ensembles in band, choir and orchestra receive superior, the top rating, at their respective assessments. Band director and music teacher Paul Vesilind characterizes the distinction as a goal for the program as a whole.

“All of us as directors strive every year for all of our groups to get superiors,” Vesilind said. “The Blue Ribbon is an honor and really means that we as a department have a really balanced program.”

The Wind Symphony, Sinfonia Orchestra and Statesmen Singers had been practicing since the beginning of this year in preparation of this performance. These musicians often choose challenging pieces which incorporate varying movements and registers.

“Preparation for assessment is a lot of blood, sweat and tears,” member of the Wind Symphony and senior Sara Zhu said. “We try out a lot of pieces that are very challenging, and practice every class as well as during after school rehearsals.”

While preparation for assessment was difficult for the band and orchestra programs, the Statesmen Singers faced a unique issue: the absence of their director Keri Staley for most of the year.

“We had to overcome adversity this year,” junior Satori Greene said. “Our choir teacher was out on maternity leave for the beginning of this year, so we had two different substitutes and we had to shift substitutes right before our assessment. While it was a new experience, we were able to adjust and still performed well regardless of this challenge.”

Since Vesilind began teaching seven years ago, students have earned the distinction four out of the seven years, and according to him, despite these challenges, the music program as a whole is on the rise.

“The quality of our ensemble has grown with the growing population,” Vesilind said. “The Blue Ribbon distinction is one that we should from now on be getting on a consistent basis.”

For many musicians and singers in these programs, earning the Blue Ribbon distinction is a culmination of the many years of work they have put into their musical ambitions.

“As a senior, I’ve been in band all four years and the prep for assessment and everything that relates to growing as a musician comes with the cultivation of a wonderful music program,” Zhu said. “I’m going into music in college and I don’t think that could have been possible without my four years here at Marshall.”