Earlier this month, some of MLE’s string students participated in the 2022 Leon County All-District Orchestra. All-District is an auditioned ensemble showcasing the best middle and high school students from the Big Bend region. Students come together for a week to work with elite ensemble coaches and conductors and then finish the week with a final concert. We reached out to three of our All-District students at MLE- Evie Gardner, Chinonso Okoli, and Eric Zhu- to learn about the audition process and what their experiences were like at the festival.


What was the audition process like and how did your instructor help you prepare?

Evie: It was easy and pretty quick. I went into a room where I practiced for 10 minutes. Then I was called in to play a scale, some sight reading, and a piece that I’d practiced for a few weeks. Ms. Carly [instructor] went over the scales with me and the etude.

Chinonso: During my audition, I was a bit nervous. I started to become confident when doing a scale that I was required to play. My instructor and I practiced the excerpts and scales required for the audition for a few months.

Eric: At first I had to listen to a few recordings of the excerpts and then my teacher, Dr. Heidrick helped me with my tone, tempo, and intonation in lessons.


What was your favorite part of All-District?

Evie: It was fun getting to play with other kids i hadn’t met before. The conductor was really nice. It was awesome to play with other kids who enjoy orchestra so much. I also liked the pieces we played a lot as they were very different from what I’ve played at school.

Chinonso: My favorite part was meeting the conductor!

Eric: Hanging out with my friends and playing the concert!


What advice do you have for students who want to audition next year?

Evie: Don’t get too worried about it. Just make sure you know all of your scales because they choose which one you end up playing for the audition. Even if you don’t get chosen for All-District, it will give you good experience and preparing can help make you a better musician.

Chinonso: My advice for students who want to audition next year is when you get the excerpt, you have make sure you are practicing and believe in yourself. If you don’t understand the excerpt, ask your instructor to help you.

Eric: Join your school orchestra and Tallahassee Youth Orchestra to get familiar with being in an orchestra beforehand.


Evie Gardner studies cello with Carly Fulcher, Chinonso Okoli studies violin with Hunter Sanchez, and Eric Zhu studies violin with Dr. Erin Heidrick.