Orchestra: A Viking Tradition

Orchestra students work hard for their seasonal concerts

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Photo courtesy Viking AV Club

The Symphony Orchestra playing Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony” at the Fall Concert.

Foster Neely, Viking Voices Co-Editor

Since 1920, Spartanburg High School has had one of the most well-known string programs in the state. The program started with director Marie Upton, with only 10 students in the class. Since then, the program has grown to four orchestras at the high school, and one orchestra at each elementary and middle school in the district. The four high school orchestras are the Freshman Orchestra and the Viking Orchestra, directed by Helen Tipton, and the Symphony Orchestra and the Chamber Orchestra, directed by Jeff Kuntz.  

All freshmen string players at Spartanburg High School enter into the Freshman Orchestra, and from there, they audition for either the Symphony Orchestra or the Viking Orchestra.  

Molly McAbee (9) is in the Freshman Orchestra.  

“My favorite part about orchestra is getting to play different pieces and hear them come together. Each class period involves playing small sections of music until they all come together to make the whole piece as musical and accurate as possible,” McAbee said.

My favorite part about orchestra is getting to play different pieces and hear them come together. Each class period involves playing small sections of music until they all come together to make the whole piece as musical and accurate as possible.”

— Molly McAbee

The Symphony Orchestra consists of dedicated students who learn more complicated music at a faster pace. The Viking Orchestra learns less complicated music at a somewhat slower pace. The Symphony Orchestra includes woodwind, brass and percussion instruments in addition to the four traditional stringed instruments: violin, viola, cello and bass.  

Students who are selected to be in the Symphony Orchestra have the option to also participate in the Chamber Orchestra, which rehearses every morning before school at 7:40 a.m. The Chamber Orchestra plays even more advanced music than the Symphony Orchestra and only contains 15 string players. The Symphony Orchestra is made up of around 50 string and woodwind players. 

Aleena Alapatt (12) has been playing the violin in District 7 since she was in fifth grade.  

“My favorite part about orchestra has been playing interesting music and traveling with my friends to concerts and play at different venues,” said Alapatt.  

 Jeff Kuntz is the director of the Spartanburg District 7 strings program. Kuntz has been the director of strings in District 7 since 2009, and he has enjoyed conducting orchestra concerts in the new District 7 Fine Arts center, and leading overseas field trips. In the past, these field trips have been to Austria, Germany and Italy.  The trips occur every four years. 

The overseas performance tours that I have led have each had some unforgettable, life-changing moments, and I have had the opportunity to conduct my students in some historically significant and impressive venues,” said Kuntz.